Death logistics – new law allows composting of human bodies rather than cremation or burial

A new law passed by the US state of Washington allows composting of human bodies rather than cremation or burial


Some 55-million people die every year worldwide (according to 2014 estimates by the UN), which equates to more than 150,000 every single day, and all those people need to be either buried or cremated.

Burial takes up a huge amount of land for funeral plots, while cremation requires a massive expenditure of energy. Neither is good for the environment, and with the global population rising, neither is sustainable.

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But, a state in the US, Washington, believes it has found the solution with a new law, the first of its kind in the world, that will allow the composting of human bodies as an alternative to burials and cremations.

The practise was approved and signed into law after an earlier trial study that involved six families that agreed to the organic reduction of loved ones.

The results were positive and the "soil smelled like soil and nothing else” according to reports.

Troy Hottle, a fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told The Seattle Times earlier this year that the method is as "close to the natural process of decomposition [as] you’d assume a body would undergo before we had an industrialized society."

Licensed facilities in the state will offer a "natural organic reduction" whereby the body is mixed with substances like wood chips and about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil over the course of several weeks.

Loved ones will have the option to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.

"It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death," said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.

The bill takes effect on May 1, 2020 and the procedure will initially cost around $5,500.

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