An article from the Seattle Times that you can read here mentions that the State of Washington currently has only two lawful means of disposition of human remains — burial and cremation. State Senator Jamie Pedersen intends to ask the legislature to double the number of ways by introducing a bill in the next session that would rewrite the state code to allow alkaline hydrolysis and recomposition.
Alkaline hydrolysis is familiar to most and now allowed in several states but Washington would be the first state to allow recomposition — the idea of converting human remains to soil.
The article points out that recomposition is not just an idea anymore. Over the past year, a professor of soil science at Washington State University had received funding and led research using six deceased human bodies to prove the process of recomposition. According to the professor, the resulting process passed, and sometimes exceeded state and federal requirements for pathogens and metals that could be dangerous to humans and plants. A peer-reviewed, scientific paper about the results is underway.
According to the article, Recompose – the name given the process – is the process where a human body is taken to a Recompose facility, placed in a bed of plant material, and in the process which takes about thirty days, produces decomposition into a dark, nutrient-rich soil.
According to lawmaker Pedersen, “Current state law reflects concerns as old as organized civilization about spreading dangerous pathogens. Now that testing has happened at WSU, we’re in a good position to say it’s safe, effective and environmentally friendly. And, people might want this option.” Half a dozen Republicans and Democrats have co-signed the bill that will be presented.
This whole idea came about from Katrina Spade, who in 2014 founded the Urban Death Project to find a way to bypass what she calls “the expense and toxicity of the traditional funeral industry”. Spade is now poised to open the first Recompose facility in Seattle that she estimates to be open as soon as 2020.
Funeral Director Daily take: Wow. This article somewhat hit me right between the eyes as to how our death care industry is changing. It is a very interesting article – one which also mentions people who really would prefer this option for their own disposition. I’m guessing that there is something to this when it has been tested at a major university for the safety requirements. The state of Washington is known for its environmental friendly attitude. If this is truly a safe process, I’m guessing that recomposition will find legality in the near future.
It will be interesting to watch and see if this bill advances thru the Washington State legislature.