Washington has become the first state in the US to legalise a composting process for the disposal of end-of-life human beings.
According to an Associated Press report, eco-friendly governor Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains.
Under the new law that will go into effect in May of next year, people who die in the state will have the option to have their bodies transformed into soil suitable for use in gardening in a process called recomposition.
The move follows a research campaign by Recompose, a company which offers an alternative choice to cremation and conventional burial methods.
"Recomposition offers an alternative to embalming and burial or cremation that is natural, safe, sustainable, and will result in significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage," said Katrina Spade, who lobbied for the law and is the founder of Recompose, a Seattle-based company set to be the first to offer the service.
"The idea of returning to nature so directly and being folded back into the cycle of life and death is actually pretty beautiful," Spade told Associated Press.
She added that she became interested in the process of composting corpses around 10 years ago and began examining the technical aspects of creating an environmentally friendly "third option" that could compete with the $20 billion US funeral industry.
The process, developed with Washington State University, which did clinical trials with donor bodies, sees dead people placed in a hexagonal steel container filled with wood chips, alfalfa and straw.
The container is shut and the body is decomposed by microbes within 30 days. The end product is said to be a dry, fluffy nutrient-rich soil resembling what one would buy at a local nursery and suitable for vegetable gardens.
"Everything, including bones and teeth, is recomposed," Spade said. "That’s because our system creates the perfect environment for microbes and beneficial bacteria to break everything down quite quickly."
In 2016 Spade gave a TEDx Talk on the subject which can be viewed below.
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