- The bill, SB 5001 "concerning human remains," was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday.
- Proponents of the law say it is an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional means of disposition, like funeral home burial or cremation.
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Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee , who is running for president in the crowded 2020 Democratic field, signed SB 5001 "concerning human remains," on Tuesday making Washington State the first in the country to legalize human composting as an alternative to a traditional burial or cremation.
Under the law, which is slated to take effect May 1, 2020, human remains can be disposed of through "natural organic reduction" or through alkaline hydrolysis, known as liquid cremation, which uses a chemical process including water, alkaline chemicals, and heat to reduce human remains to bone fragments. That practice is already legal in some states.
Inslee is running for president as "the climate candidate," with a progressive platform focused on environmental issues . Cremation emits carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, while burials take up land and can pollute the air and soil. The law signed Tuesday was touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional means of disposition, which Washington State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat from Seattle who sponsored the bill, described as "a serious weight on the earth and the environment as your final farewell," according to The Associated Press.
The bill, which passed both legislative chambers with bipartisan majorities, opens the doors for a Seattle-based company called Recompose to become the country's first funeral home to offer human composting.
Pedersen told the AP that the legislation was inspired by Recompose's founder, Katrina Spade, who first began researching the funeral industry as a architecture graduate student in Massachusetts. She founded Recompose in 2017 and is working to raise around $7 million to create a facility in Seattle and to begin expansion efforts. Recompose plans to charge around $5,500 for the service, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Once the law takes effect, Recompose plans to place the deceased in vessels, with material like wood chips and straw, as microbes break down bodies over the span of around a month. Those remains will create soil that friends or family have the option to take home and spread as a memory of their loved ones.
The state's funeral industry has had mixed reactions to the practice.
"I think some people were fine with it, others were not so fine with it," Rob Goff, executive director of the Washington State Funeral Directors Association, told the Seattle Times. "It all boils down to personal choice for the families we're serving."
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