The Governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, signed legislation Tuesday that approves the process that turns bodies into soil within weeks.
This push for eco-friendly burial alternatives will allow loved ones to keep the soil in urns, similar to cremation, which can be spread in public lands or used to grow plants on private property.
Human composting, or “natural organic reduction,” as it’s also known, relies on a mixture of materials, such as wood chips and straw, to produce about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil.
The legislation was inspired by Katrina Spade, a graduate student who came up with the idea by modeling it from a method farmers use to dispose of livestock. Spade found that a mixture of wood chips, alfalfa and straw can convert bodies to soil within four to seven weeks. She tested it during a pilot program at Washington State University with six human bodies.
Spade, who has founded a company called “Recompose,” said in April, “Our goal is to provide something that is as aligned with the natural cycle as possible, but still realistic in being able to serve a good number of families and not take up as much land as burial will.”
According to the Seattle Times, the law takes effect May 1, 2020. Previous laws allowed for only cremation or traditional burials to dispose of remains in Washington.
Other green burial methods, like using a biodegradable casket, are growing in popularity around the country in recent years. Actor Luke Perry, who passed away in March, was buried in an eco-friendly mushroom suit that is fully biodegradable.
The law also allows for alkaline hydrolysis, or “liquid cremation,” the Times reported.