Washington Becomes First State to Legalize Human Composting

Washington Governor Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference to announce his candidacy at A&R Solar in Seattle, Wash., March 1, 2019. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

Washington governor and 2020 presidential candidate Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed the nation’s first human composting bill into law.

S.B. 501, “Concerning Human Remains,” adds human composting, otherwise known as “liquid cremation,” to the list of legal means of body disposition, which previously included just burial and cremation, according to the Seattle Times.

The law, which takes effect May 1, 2020, will allow Recompose, the state’s first “organic reduction” funeral home, to open its doors. There, bodies will undergo a four week decomposition process involving straw and wood chips after which they will be turned into clean soil that meets all environmental regulations.

“I think this is great,” Joshua Slocum, director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a national public-advocacy group based in Vermont, told the Times. “In this country, we have a massively dysfunctional relationship with death, which does not make good principles for public policy. Disposition of the dead, despite our huge emotional associations with it, is not — except in very rare cases — a matter of public health and public safety. It’s a real tough thing for people to get their minds around, and a lot of our state laws stand in the way of people returning to simple, natural, uncomplicated, inexpensive ways of doing things.”

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