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Washington Democrats Sign Bill Allowing ‘Human Composting’ in the State

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5001 into law Tuesday

 on 22nd May 2019 @ 1.00pm
washington s democrat governor jay inslee signed a bill into law allowing human composting © press
Washington's Democrat Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law allowing human composting

Washington state's Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed a new bill into law on Tuesday, allowing the composting of human bodies as an alternative to burials and cremations.

The move makes Washington state the first state in the country to legalize human composting.

Gov. Inslee signed Senate Bill 5001 into law Tuesday following a push from green campaigners.

The bill makes it legal to compost human remains, using a process called natural organic reduction, along with another practice called water cremation.

The law also authorizes the use of alkaline hydrolysis— already used in 19 other states — which uses heat, pressure, water, and chemicals like lye to reduce remains to components of liquid and bone similar to cremated ashes that can be kept in urns or interred, according to the Associated Press.

Human composting will be legal by May 1, 2020.

Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, a company that wants to give people alternative choice to cremation and conventional burial, said they worked with Washington State University to test its safety for environmental and human health.

Six people donated their bodies for the study.

"With cremation, you have the burning of fossil fuels and emission of carbon and mercury particulates into the atmosphere," said Spade.

"With conventional burial, there is quite a carbon footprint from the manufacturer and transport of caskets, grave liners, and then the upkeep of cemeteries."

washington state will legally allow human composting from may 1 © press
Washington state will legally allow human composting from May 1

According to Fox News, Troy Hottle, a fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told The Seattle Times earlier this year that the method is as "close to the natural process of decomposition [as] you’d assume a body would undergo before we had an industrialized society."

Licensed facilities in the state will offer a "natural organic reduction." 

The body is mixed with substances like wood chips into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks.

Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.

katrina spade  the founder of recompose  pushed for human composting to be legalized © press
Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, pushed for human composting to be legalized

"It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death," said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.

The bill, SB 5001, takes effect on May 1 and reportedly passed easily in Aprile and had bipartisan support in the state Senate and House of Representatives.

An NBC News report last year said the procedure could cost $5,500.

The Evergreen state is the first state to approve the measure after an earlier trial study that involved six backers who agreed to the organic reduction.

The results were positive and the "soil smelled like soil and nothing else."

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tags: Death | Law

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