Inslee Signs Law Permitting Human Composting

Jay Inslee
Jay Inslee / Getty Images

Gov. Jay Inslee (D., Wash.) signed a bill on Tuesday permitting the "natural organic" method of burying human remains, making Washington the first state to legalize human composting.

An individual who is composted would have his or her body mixed with wood chips and straw until they are turned into two wheelbarrows full of dirt, according to the New York Post.

"It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death," Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, said of composting humans.

Composting is considered by proponents to be more environmentally friendly than cremation or burials.

"That's a serious weight on the earth and the environment as your final farewell," Democratic state senator Jamie Pedersen said about more traditional means of burial.

Katrina Spade, founder of Recompose, is one of Washington's leading advocates for composting human bodies, having come up with the idea as a graduate student at the University of Masssachusetts Amherst. She based the practice on what farmers do to get rid of livestock.

"Our service — recomposition — gently converts human remains into soil, so that we can nourish new life after we die," the Recompose website says.

Pedersen received emails from people upset with the idea.

"The image they have is that you’re going to toss Uncle Henry out in the backyard and cover him with food scraps," he said.

Inslee, who is running for president, has struggled to break through in Democratic primary polls. He does not appear on the RealClearPolitics average of polls, which features the top 13 candidates.

The Washington governor has also called for abolishing the Electoral College and Senate filibuster in order to enact environmental and health care reforms.