Death can now begin a new life in Washington, after the state’s governor signed a law that will allow people to be turned into compost when they die, instead of being buried or cremated.
It will be called “natural organic reduction” and combines a person’s remains with wood chips and straw and produces two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil after several weeks, The Associated Press reported.
The soil’s use will be up to the loved ones. It can be spread like ashes or used for planting, the AP reported.
The bill that Gov. Jay Inslee signed this week was passed earlier this year.
One company that plans to be at the forefront of the emerging trend is Recompose.
“There’s really only two options for when we die: cremation and burial. Neither (of those options) felt particularly meaningful to and I think if that’s the case, it’s true for others as well,” Recompose chief executive officer Katrina Spade told KIRO.
She’s been working with experts in the field to safely recycle remains.
“They’ve already done lots of research about the safe and effective ways to recycle animals back to the land on farms,” Spade said.
A process familiar to Washington’s large agricultural communities became the focus of a new study at Washington State University, using the bodies of six human donors. “We proved recomposition was indeed safe and effective for humans as well.”
The process is likely more environmentally friendly in a state where 70% of people choose cremation.
“Recomposition uses an 1/8th of the energy cremation and saves just over a metric ton of carbon dioxide per person who chooses it, so that’s pretty significant,” Spade told KIRO 7.
The process would be done in special facilities, where the body would be transported after death.
Katrina explained how the process works: “(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.”
During that time, families will be able to visit the facility and, in the end, receive the soil that remains, to use as they choose. “And if they don’t want that soil, we’ll partner with local conservation groups around the Puget Sound region so that that soil will be used to nourish the land here in the state,” said Spade.
As for the cost, the average burial can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $25,000. Cremation can cost up to $6,000. Spade expects Recompose to charge around $5,500.
Spade said earlier this year she hopes to start work on designing the facility by 2020.
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