Washington legislation would legalize composting human remains

Washington could be the first state to allow human composting, also known as “recomposition,” according to NBC News.

Recomposition consists of speeding up the decomposition of human bodies by placing them in containers filled with nutrient-dense soil. The soil can then be returned to families.

“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,” state Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D) told NBC.

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Pedersen is sponsoring a bill in the state’s legislature that would add recomposition to the list of options available for disposing of human remains.

Pedersen’s bill would also make Washington the 17th state to allow the dissolving of human remains by alkaline hydrolysis.

He told NBC News he plans to introduce the bill next month when the legislature convenes for the new year.

Pedersen said the new forms of decomposition provide citizens more options, ones that are more environmentally friendly and can be more cost effective.

The price for recomposition runs around $5,500, NBC reported. A typical funeral service and burial can cost as much as $7,000 or more, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

“The advantage that I see as a soil scientist and an environmental scientist is that it is relatively low in resource use and it also creates this soil-like or compost-like product that helps to store carbon," Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, an associate professor of sustainable and organic agriculture at Washington State University, told NBC.

Carpenter-Boggs's research, which she says concluded that recomposition is safe, included a five-month program where five donor bodies were successfully recomposed in a controlled environment without spreading pathogens from the bodies.