Many of us spend our lives trying to live as sustainably and be as green as possible. But what happens when we finally die? You can be buried traditionally or cremated, and in Washington State, a new eco-friendly option has been made available: composting human remains.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill that legalized human composting that took effect in May of 2019. The bill describes the process of human composting as “contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil. Burial and cremation are also legal in Washington.
Senator Jamie Pederson, the bill’s sponsor, thinks it’s high time we have an eco-friendly way of disposing of our remains when we die.”
“It’s about time we apply some technology, allow some technology to be applied to this universal human experience … because we think that people should have the freedom to determine for themselves how they’d like their body to be disposed of,” said Sen. Pedersen.
Human composting is a little more complicated than your backyard compost heap. According to Katrina Spade, CEO of the human composting company Recompose, explained the process in an interview with KIRO.
“The body is covered in natural materials, like straw or wood chips, and over the course of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it breaks down into soil,” she explained.
Families of the deceased are welcomed to visit the facility while the decomposition process takes place. When the body has broken down into soil, families may take that soil and do with it what they please.
The Washington bill passed following a Washington State University study that examined six bodies that were donated for human composting.
“We proved recomposition was indeed safe and effective for humans as well,” Spade said.
Human composting isn’t just a more environmentally friendly way to dispose of human remains, but it’s a bit less expensive too. Burials can cost up to $25,000. Cremation can be as expensive as $6,000. Spade says she hopes to charge approximately $5,500 to compost human remains.