Dead humans to be turned into compost for relatives' gardens
Washington state is on the verge of becoming the first in the US to allow humans to be turned into compost, amid a surge in demand for sustainable and "positive" funeral services.
A bill, expected to be signed into law in days, legalises two sustainable body disposal options: a chemical process of alkaline hydrolysis and a natural process of organic reduction.
Jay Inslee, the 68-year-old Democrat governor of Washington, nicknamed the Evergreen State, announced his bid for the presidency last month, highlighting his environmental record as governor as he pitched himself as the only candidate committed to making tackling climate change their first priority in office.
Proponents of the human composting bill say an environmentally friendly after-death service is badly needed with an ageing population and as an alternative to costly burial services.
One of those lobbying for the law change was Katrina Spade, founder of Recompose, who says the Seattle-based company plans to use wood chips, alfalfa and straw to turn bodies into a cubic yard of topsoil in a month.
The soil can then be used by relatives to nourish plants in their gardens. The company claims its natural recomposition process equates to more than a tonne in carbon emissions savings per person.
"It is an understandable tendency to limit the amount of time we spend contemplating our after-death choices, but environmental realities are pressing us to develop alternatives to chemical embalming, carbon-generating cremation and the massive land use requirements of traditional cemeteries," she said.
The idea is likely to gain appeal as the US faces a sharp rise in deaths as the baby-boomer generation ages. According to the US Census Bureau, the annual death rate is projected to reach more than 3.6 million by 2037, a million more than in 2015. (© Daily Telegraph, London)