Residents in Washington state will soon have another option when it comes to how their remains are handled when they die. A new bill has been proposed that will allow something called “natural organic reduction.” Many call the process human composting, and while the idea might seem strange at first glance, it also produces a much smaller impact on the environment than other traditional burial methods. In fact, the organic reduction method is smaller and creates fewer carbon emissions than those created by cremation.
The human composting procedure creates roughly a cubic yard of soil per body. If the bill becomes a law, family members of the deceased would be able to store that soil in urns, as they would ashes, or they can use the soil to plant trees on their own property or scatter it across public lands. There are current laws that cover the scattering of ashes, and those same rules would apply to the scattering of soil.
Farmers have been using a similar method of composting livestock for years. After researching this agricultural process, Katrina Spade, a student at Washing State University, conducted a test on six human bodies as part of her master’s thesis. She used the results of her studies to help start her company, Recompose. If the bill passes, her company will offer organic reduction services to families. The company hasn’t announced an official price tag, but in an interview, they mentioned a figure of $5,500 per body. That’s considerably less than the average $7,300 per body that traditional funerals and burials cost in 2017.
Washington State leads the country when it comes to cremation. In 2017, more than 75% of all the residents in the state who died were cremated. While the new reduction service wouldn’t necessarily be meant to replace existing burial services, it would provide a sustainable alternative that some families would greatly appreciate.
According to Spade, the new service would be as close to the “natural cycle” as possible. The fact that it helps the environment is an added bonus. If the bill passes, the law would take effect in May of next year.