In last May, Washington State became the first state in the United States to pass a law which allowed the composting of the human body as an alternative to the traditional methods of burying and cremation of the human remains.
The law which takes effect from May 1, 2020, was signed by Governor Jay Inslee on May 21, 2019. It recognizes organic reduction of the human remains and alkaline hydrolysis as an acceptable method. The State code only permitted burial and cremation. The bill won a considerable amount of attention in the Senate. Human composting was the brainchild of Katherine Spade and Recompose is one of the upcoming start-ups that can change the Funeral industry.
Although Washington is not new to people trying to find eco-friendly ways when it comes to bidding goodbye to the deceased, this would be a step towards one of the most environment-friendly and cost-effective ways to a funeral.
How is it done?
Recompose rejoiced at the decision made by the Washington state. The urban method of composting of the human body began as an idea from Spade in 2014. Recompose is a Seattle based start-up that focuses on human composting, a method where the body is laid to rest in a vessel with wood chips, alfalfa, and straw.
The process involves oxygen being pumped into the vessel to increase the microbial activity. After a month of the process, the end result would be the body yielding about a cubic yard of fluffy soil, which will be given to the family of the deceased. People suffering from Prion disease are not eligible for the procedure.
Today along with alkaline hydrolysis, human composting is a smooth process that ensures that you can hold on to the memory of the deceased in a more personal way. The estimated funeral cost of human composting comes up to $5,500 and the average cost of a funeral amounted up to $6,000 to $12,000 in the US.
Washington already has White Eagle Memorial Preserve Cemetery in the county of Klickitat which was one of the first steps towards resolving the issue with respect to preserving the environment. The procedure used here involves the people not being embalmed or put in caskets or have headstones.
Mushroom burial suit
Alkaline hydrolysis has been famous in the US since the 1990s. It was initially used to dispose of cows during a decade-long foot-and-mouth epidemic. Also known as resomation, it is also a method that is catching on and is legal in 19 states in the US.
Apart from the two legalized procedures of Washington state, another method that has also caught the attention of the public is the 'mushroom burial suit'. When Luke Perry passed away the Beverly Hills heartthrob was laid to rest in a mushroom burial suit in Tennessee. The infinity burial suit and the mushroom burial suit which can be found in the website Coeio is an eco-friendly way of burying the disease which costs around $1,500 to$10,000.
The psychological hurdle the consumers may face
Human composting can be done in around a cubic yard of soil which can be used by the family or by other conservation groups. Although the method legalized in the state of Washington is perfect from the environmental angle, the process has a significant psychological hazard.
For many people, the idea of using the soil produced from the composting procedure after a month for use in a vegetable or fruit garden is quite absurd. The idea that you are eating crop grown in the soil where a deceased person was 'composted' doesn't sit well with many.
A cubic yard of soil is a huge amount. Since the procedure leads to the reduction of toxins in the dissolving body it can be used in various places including the forests. The Washington state law proposes that the soil be used for forests and non-food gardens.
However, there are hopes that human composting can help people cut the steep cost that funeral homes charge. People normally have to deal with their grief of loss with over the top expenses from the funeral as well. The average cost was seen at thousands of dollars in the Washington state alone.