Washington lawmakers have approved a bill that would allow human composting.
The state Senate approved SB 5001 Friday after it cleared the state House on April 9. It’s unclear yet if Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee will sign the bill, The Seattle Times reported. Once the law is officially transmitted to him, Inslee has five days to decide whether to sign it or veto it.
If he signs the bill, it would take effect May 1, 2020.
During the time that the bill was drafted and moved through the legislature, its supporters painted it as an option for those who want alternatives to traditional burial or cremation.
“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,” said state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, according to NBC.
“It would be a big surprise if he was anything but all over it,” Pedersen said. “It’s Washington doing an environmentally friendly, path-breaking thing.”
Conceptually, what’s called “recomposition,” puts dead bodies in a container and speeds up decomposition.
The soil generated can then be used however a family might wish.
“It’s about time we apply some technology, allow some technology, to be applied to this universal human experience both because we think that people should have the freedom to determine for themselves how they’d like their body to be disposed of and also because we have learned over time that there are some more environmentally friendly and safe ways of disposing of human remains,” Pedersen said in February, according to CNN.
“Of all the options for the disposition of human remains, this would be by far the most environmentally friendly. It’s just what used to happen before the arrival of $5,000 caskets covered with ecologically unfriendly varnishes and all the rest,” Pedersen said.
The bill was pushed by Katrina Spade, CEO of Recompose, which wants to go into the business of human composting.
Spade pushes what she said are the ecological benefits of human composting, KING reported.
“With cremation, you have the burning of fossil fuels and emission of carbon and mercury particulates into the atmosphere. With conventional burial, there is quite a carbon footprint from the manufacturer and transport of caskets, grave liners, and then the upkeep of cemeteries,” she told the station.
“So, you have those two options, and if people want those options, absolutely they need to remain. But recomposition uses about an eighth of the energy of cremation and also has a significant carbon reduction thanks in part from the sequestration that happens of the materials during the process.”
Spade said no one should be denied the post-death option of their choosing.
“First of all, we are trying to add one more choice for Washington folks. So, it certainly is not about making anyone do anything they don’t want,” Spade said.
The bill follows a pilot program conducted by Washington State University on six donors’ bodies, The Seattle Times reported.
Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, an associate professor of sustainable and organic agriculture at Washington State, said that after the five-month process, it was found to be safe.
“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,” Carpenter-Boggs told Portland’s KGW in December.
During a hearing on the bill in early April, according to The Seattle Times, one supporter showed his enthusiasm for the project.
“I am very much in favor of the composting of human bodies!” said Wes McMahan, a retired nurse from Randle, Washington.
“When I’m done with this body that served me very well for the past 64 years, do I want to poison it with formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals? No.
“Burned? Not my first choice. But what about all the bacteria I’ve worked with so long in this body — do I want to give them a chance to do what they do naturally? I believe in doing things as naturally as possible.”
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