Green reaper: Washington state first to legalize human composting

by WorldTribune Staff, May 22, 2019

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on May 21 signed legislation that makes Washington the first state to legalize human composting, which supporters say is an eco-friendly way of “final disposition.”

Gov. Jay Inslee

Washington is the state with the nation’s highest rate of cremation at 78 percent. It also has below-average participation in organized religion.

Inslee, one of more 20 candidates seeking the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination, has made climate change the focus of his presidential campaign.

The governor said that human composting will save about a ton of carbon emissions for each body.

The law is set to take effect on May 1, 2020.

The law that Inslee signed also permits a process called alkaline hydrolysis, in which bodies are broken down in water and lye. It is already legal in some states.

“Both hydrolysis and composting differ from green burial, in which bodies are interred without embalming or headstones, sometimes in biodegradable caskets. Composting a human body produces a couple of wheelbarrows full of topsoil, which can be used in planting trees, flowers or even vegetables,” the Los Angeles Times noted in a May 21 report.

A Seattle business said it intends to build the nation’s first funeral home offering human composting.

“Recompose said it will place bodies in steel vessels with wood chips, alfalfa and straw, enabling microbes to break down bodies into soil in about a month,” the LA Times report said, adding that the company plans to charge about $5,500, more than no-frills cremation and less than burial in a casket.

Proponents say human composting is “an alternative to conventional burial and cremation that produces topsoil suitable for gardening,” the report said.

The bill authorizing the practice passed Washington’s legislative chambers with bipartisan majorities. The Catholic Church opposed the measure, maintaining that composting did not show sufficient respect for the deceased, the report said.

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