Saturday, November 23, 2019

Washington Becomes First State to Allow ‘Human Composting’ as a Burial Method

By Meilan Solly
April 23, 2019 | Updated: May 23, 2019

In 2015, cremations outpaced burials for the first time in United States history. And as the National Funeral Directors Association points out, this upward trend is set to continue over the coming decades, with the national cremation rate predicted to reach nearly 80 percent by 2035. Still, while cremation has obvious environmental advantages over burial—think of all the wood, reinforced concrete, steel, copper and carcinogenic formaldehyde needed to inter the deceased—the process isn’t as Earth-friendly as you might think. In fact, Laura Yan reported for Pacific Standard in 2016, cremation releases 600 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

Human composting is the brainchild of Katrina Spade, CEO of alternative burial company Recompose. Speaking with local news station KIRO 7, Spade explains that recomposition involves moving the body to a specially designed facility—“part public park, part funeral home, part memorial to the people we love,” in the entrepreneur’s words—and placing it inside of a vessel filled with wood chips, alfalfa and straw. After several weeks of microbial activity, the body breaks down into soil that can then be given to family of the deceased or used by conservation groups to “nourish the [surrounding] land.” Overall, the process uses an eighth of the energy required for cremation and saves more than one metric ton of carbon dioxide for every individual who opts to use it.


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