Human composting, otherwise known as natural organic reduction, is the accelerated decomposition of human remains by organic processes. Last month, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a bill “concerning human remains” that makes Washington the first state in the nation to legalize human composting as a means of final disposition of human remains. The new law goes into effect on May 1, 2020.
Prior to passage of this new law, legal means of disposing of human remains in Washington were limited to burial or cremation, which is the norm around the country and in much of the rest of the world. The New York Times reports that Washington is not just the first state in the nation to legalize human composting; it may be the first place in the world with a law on the books authorizing human composting. Under the new law, in addition to burial and cremation, Washingtonians will have two new methods to choose from for disposing of their remains: alkaline hydrolysis and natural organic reduction. Alkaline hydrolysis is defined as “the reduction of human remains to bone fragments and essential elements in a licensed hydrolysis facility using heat, pressure, water, and base chemical agents.” Natural organic reduction is defined as “the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil.”
Natural organic reduction is a process that involves using straw, wood chips, and other materials that can convert human remains to soil. The Seattle Times reports this process is similar to “livestock composting”, which has been adopted by farmers and ranchers in recent years. Natural organic reduction has environmental benefits because it uses a lot less energy than cremation. Right now, no human composting facilities exist, but one Seattle company, Recompose, expects to have a facility to conduct natural organic reduction in operation by 2020.
Interested in learning about your options for providing for the disposition of your remains? We’re available to answer your questions and discuss whether it is time to update your Memorial Instructions.