A different way of burying the dead

Folks in Washington state are considering what many people out in the hinterlands would consider a strange new law — at least partly on the grounds of protecting the environment.

Washington legislators have approved a bill, now awaiting action by the governor, to allow composting of human bodies, so they can be used as mulch for plants.

We don’t make these things up.

Funeral customs are changing in our country. Cremation has become the most frequently used method of handling the dear departed. It surpassed traditional burial in 2016.

And baby boomers are aging, raising the potential for what The Washington Post calls “a death boom” during the next few decades.

A company in Seattle, Recompose, sees opportunity in that.

Recompose plans to provide “natural organic reduction” of bodies — accelerating the natural process. Microbes would be used to break them down, in a way similar to how many people make their own garden compost out of organic waste.

“Human composting, its supporters say, is an eco-friendly option,” the Post reports.

Doing that instead of handling the dead in more traditional ways saves money and resources that otherwise would go into expensive caskets and vaults, supporters of human composting note. And all those toxic embalming chemicals are not used, they add.

Many say this proposed practice shows a lack of respect for the dead. Then again, one could have said the same about cremation several decades ago.

There’s also a significant creepiness factor to using your loved one’s body in your garden — but the same could be true for sprinkling their ashes.

Then there’s this, according to the Post: Estimates are that “the average cremated body emits roughly 40 pounds of carbon and requires nearly 30 gallons of fuel to burn.”

Apparently cremation adds to climate change.

It’s hard to believe composting bodies will make much difference in stabilizing the Earth’s climate. but if Washingtonians want to use human compost to grow their vegetables, that’s up to them.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)