Washington became the first state to allow composting of human bodies as an alternative to being buried or cremated when Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the legislation Tuesday.
Now, licensed facilities are allowed to offer “natural organic reduction.” This process takes several weeks, and involves mixing a body with wood chips, straw and other substances. The body eventually turns into about two wheelbarrows full of compost, according to NBC News.
Just like cremation, family members can keep the compost and use it as they please.
Composting human bodies supposedly allows for an alternative that is healthier for the environment. Cremation requires a lot of natural energy, which result in carbon emissions, and burials can pollute groundwater because of the chemicals put into bodies. Traditional burials also take up land, according to Democratic Washington state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, who sponsored the measure.
“There’s very little question that we have to make significant changes in a lot of what we do to deal with the environmental consequences of our actions,” Pedersen told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Both of the existing methods permitted under Washington law have significant environmental consequences.”
Pedersen told TheDCNF that he was inspired by his neighbor Katrina Spade. Spade was an architecture graduate at the University of Massachusetts.
Spade took the already-practiced form of using deceased livestock as compost and altered it for humans. Using alfalfa, wood chips, and straw, she figured out that this combination resulted in a mixture that works to speed up decomposition. This decomposition happens when a body is then placed in a particular structure that controls temperature, moisture, and rotates the body, according to NBC News.
In 2017, Spade founded Recompose, which offers an “alternative choice to cremation and conventional burial methods.” She then ran a pilot program in 2018 on six bodies that Spade said wanted to be a part of the study, according to USA Today.
After the study finished, Pedersen told TheDCNF that Spade came to him about supporting the measure, and that he agreed.
Our carbon footprint doesn’t quite stop when we die…we each have a decision to make about our final gesture on this earth. @GovInslee we are excited about SB5001 which just passed legislature! ????????????????
— Katrina Spade (@recomposelife) April 20, 2019
“Nobody has to do one or the other…but for folks who are concerned about having their final act on the planet be one that has a negative effect on the environment, it’s a really good alternative,” said Pedersen to TheDCNF.
“I’ve had at least dozens of messages, if not hundreds, of people anxiously awaiting the legislation to go into effect,” Pedersen continued when asked about the public’s reaction to this idea.
“We’re at a place in history where I think it’s really time for us to apply new technology and innovation to this very basic fact of life,” Pedersen said to TheDCNF.
Katrina Spade could not immediately be reached for comment.
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