Washington has become the first state in the nation to pass a law allowing composting as an alternative to burial or cremation of human remains.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Tuesday legalizing human composting. The bill will go into effect in May next year.
Right now, if a person dies in Washington, the body can only be cremated or buried, according to the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Jamie Pedersen. The bill gives people a third option for disposing of human remains: recomposition.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, said it is an environmentally friendly way of disposing of human remains.
“It’s about time we apply some technology, allow some technology, to be applied to this universal human experience both because we think that people should have the freedom to determine for themselves how they’d like their body to be disposed of and also because we have learned over time that there are some more environmentally friendly and safe ways of disposing of human remains,” Pedersen said in February.
How human composting works
Katrina Spade is the CEO of the human composting company, Recompose, and told CNN affiliate KIRO-TV she is hoping her company can be one of the first to build a facility for the practice.
“(The) body is covered in natural materials, like straw or wood chips, and over the course of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it breaks down into soil,” she said.
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While the dead body is being broken down, Spade said families of the deceased will be able to visit her facility and will ultimately receive the soil that remains of their loved. It is up to the family how they want to use that soil, Spade said.
The process was the focus of a new study at Washington State University, according to KIRO, in which six people donated their bodies for research.
“We proved recomposition was indeed safe and effective for humans as well,” Spade said.
The average burial can cost between $8,000 and $25,000. Cremation can top $6,000. Spade told the affiliate she hopes to charge about $5,500 for human composting.
One supporter for human composting, Leslie Christian, told KIRO it’s an attractive from an environmental perspective. She said she told her brother, who reportedly said, “Oh great, you can plant tomatoes in me.”