Washington becomes the first state to experiment with ‘human composting’

A couple of weeks ago, Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill that makes it legal to compost human remains as an alternative to burial or cremation. The move makes Washington the first state to allow such a plan, and the law will go into effect in May of 2020, according to CNN:

“Currently in Washington, bodies can either be cremated or buried. The process of recomposition provides a third option that speeds up the process of turning dead bodies into soil, a practice colloquially known as ‘human composting.’ The bill describes the process as a ‘contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil.'”

But while many have welcomed the move made by Washington, The Los Angeles Times reports that there’s also been resistance to the idea, with some saying the composting law disgusts them:

“’I think the vision they have is that you throw Grandpa out in the backyard with food scraps,’ said state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Seattle Democrat.

“In fact, Pedersen said, the idea is that ‘bodies are being reduced to soil in a way that is essentially an acceleration of a very natural process.’ The practice reduces the environmental impact, he said, and saves land from being taken up by cemetery plots and headstones.”

Others, however, are already signing up to have their mortal remains composted when they die. Nina Schoen, 48, of Seattle, remarked:

“I don’t want to leave a toxic footprint when I go.”

The biggest hurdle may simply be the way the entire notion is being branded, according to Mary Roach, who wrote about human composting in her book, Stiff, which looks at what happens to human remains:

“Anytime you propose something new to be done with human remains, it’s a little tough to get everybody on board.”

For example, the Times notes, would cremation currently be the method used by 50 percent of Americans if it were known as “human burning”?

Companies have already sprung up in Washington to assist those who are interested in human composting:

“In Seattle, a company called Recompose, where Schoen volunteers as an advisor, is preparing to offer human composting in a process marketed delicately as ‘natural organic reduction,’ letting microbes do the work of breaking down remains. As Recompose Chief Executive Katrina Spade explains, composting solves some of the environmental problems presented by burial or cremation, providing a natural alternative:

“‘Creating a space that feels comforting and serene will be the first goal,’ Spade said. ‘The idea of returning to nature so directly and being folded back into the cycle of life and death is actually pretty beautiful.'”

The charge for composting will be approximately $5,500, which is significantly more than cremation, but still less than the average price of  burial in a casket.

While the idea is still new and somewhat novel, it could well catch on quickly, especially with those who are environmentally conscious and want to do their part to help save the Earth, even after they’ve departed this world.

Featured Image Via Pixabay


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Andrew Bradford

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