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Energy & Environment

Washington Becomes First State to Legalize Human Composting

Washington Governor Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference to announce his candidacy at A&R Solar in Seattle, Wash., March 1, 2019. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

Washington governor and 2020 presidential candidate Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed the nation’s first human composting bill into law.

The newly signed law,“Concerning Human Remains,” will allow licensed facilities to perform human composting, otherwise known as “liquid cremation,” in addition to burial and cremation.

The law, which takes effect May 1, 2020, will allow Recompose, the state’s first “organic reduction” funeral home, to open its doors. There, bodies will be placed in a container with straw and wood chips for four weeks, after which they will emerge as clean soil that meets all environmental regulations. The soil is then given to loved ones so that it can be spread at a place of their choosing.

Proponents of the option argue it is an environmentally responsible alternative to the traditional burial process in which bodies are filled with toxic chemicals and placed in a coffin that occupies ground for decades before it decomposes.

“That’s a serious weight on the earth and the environment as your final farewell,” Senator Jamie Pedersen, the Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure, told NBC News.

Critics of the legislation who have contacted Pedersen have objected to the indignity they associate with human composition.

“The image they have is that you’re going to toss Uncle Henry out in the backyard and cover him with food scraps,” Pedersen said.

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