Washington Just Became First US State To Legalise Human 'Composting'
Composting bodies, as well as a process known as "liquid cremation", is legal in Washington state.
Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill SB 5001 "concerning human remains" into law on Tuesday, making Washington the first U.S. state to allow human composting as a legal means of human body disposal.
The process of composting human bodies takes about four weeks and involves wood chips, straw, and other natural materials.
Ranchers and farmers have been using similar methods for composting dead livestock in recent years, as an environmentally-friendly alternative to burning or standard burial.
The signing of SB 5001 was driven by campaigning efforts from organisations such as Recompose, a green project that offers people an alternative to carbon-heavy cremation.
Recompose said their process "gently converts human remains into soil, so that we can nourish new life after we die".
The business also claims one metric tonne of carbon emissions is prevented by composting bodies as compared to traditional disposition techniques.
Recompose ran a trial of their composting process in mid-2018 at Washington State University, using the remains of six terminally ill people who had volunteered their bodies for the cause.
The soil that the company created from the bodies was clean, rich and passed all federal and state safety guidelines for potentially hazardous pathogens and pollutants.
While Washington already has several "green" cemeteries that bury people without embalming or coffins, the Recompose model allows grieving families to walk away with the soil -- much like traditional cremation methods.
The new legislation also allows for the use of alkaline hydrolysis, or liquid cremation, which reduces bodies to liquid and pure white bone fragments using a pressure tank boiling with water and lye.
The bone fragments can be returned to families. The liquid can be used for green purposes such as fertiliser.
The idea of legislating for liquid cremation has gained popularity in New York in the past two years, but religious groups have opposed the concept on the basis that it is undignified treatment of human remains.
A funeral license is still required to perform both liquid cremation and human composting in Washington state.
Neither liquid cremation or human composting are legal practices in Australia.