OLYMPIA – In just under a year, Washington residents will have choices other than burial and cremation after they die, including becoming human compost.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill expected to make Washington the first state to allow human composting – also known as natural organic reduction – available to those who choose it as the final disposition of their remains. It will have to be performed by a licensed facility, and rules regarding the scattering of those remains will have to be followed.
The new law also will allow for alkaline hydrolysis, which reduces a body through heat, pressure, water and certain chemicals, a process that’s legal in 19 other states.
Both processes are cheaper, more environmentally friendly and less energy intensive than cremation, supporters said.
Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor of the bill, said that while death is a universal human experience, the two methods for disposing of human remains covered by state law – burying a body or burning a body – have been with society for thousands of years.
Human composting involves covering a body with organic materials, usually straw or wood chips, which allows it to break down over a few weeks into about a cubic yard of soil indistinguishable from other compost. The composted remains could be taken by family members or scattered on designated conservation land. Recompose, a Seattle-based business that plans to offer the service, conducted a pilot program last year with five donor bodies at Washington State University.
Human composting and alkaline hydrolysis will be legal in Washington starting May 1, 2020.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.