Beyond Green Burial

Human Composting at the End of Life




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Washington is poised to become the first state to make it legal to compost human remains. A bill allowing for the process, called natural organic reduction, as well as another called water cremation, has passed the state senate and is making its way to the house for a vote. Human composting involves placing a body in a tubular vessel and covering it with natural materials like wood chips and straw. Over several weeks, microbial activity breaks down the body into about a cubic yard of soil. Recompose, a company that wants to offer the practice as an alternative to traditional methods, worked with Washington State University to test its safety for environmental and human health. Six people donated their bodies for the study. The method alleviates much of the carbon footprint associated with both cremation and traditional casket burial.


This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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