Washington could become the first state to legalize human composting

Washington residents “are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative,” state Sen. Jamie Pedersen said.

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A process known as “recomposition” reduces human remains to compost. CAHNRS Communications / Washington State University
 / Updated 
By Tafline Laylin

 

When Americans die, most are buried or cremated. Washington could soon become the first state to allow another option: human composting.

The novel approach, known as “recomposition,” involves placing bodies in a vessel and hastening their decomposition into a nutrient-dense soil that can then be returned to families. The aim is a less expensive way of dealing with human remains that is better for the environment than burial, which can leach chemicals into the ground, or cremation, which releases earth-warming carbon dioxide.

“People from all over the state who wrote to me are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative for themselves,” said state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat, who is sponsoring a bill in Washington’s Legislature to expand the options for disposing of human remains. The recomposition bill would also make Washington the 17th state to allow alkaline hydrolysis, the dissolving of bodies in a pressurized vessel with water and lye until just liquid and bone remains. Pedersen plans to introduce the bill when the new legislative session begins next month.

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