Washington appears set to become the first state to allow a burial alternative known as "natural organic reduction" — an accelerated decomposition process that turns bodies into soil within weeks.
The legalizing the process, sometimes referred to as "human composting," has passed the Legislature and is headed to the desk of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.
If signed by Inslee, the new law would take effect May 1, 2020. Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said that while the governor's office is still reviewing the bill, "this seems like a thoughtful effort to soften our footprint" on the Earth.
The measure's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Jamie Pedersen of Seattle, said that the low environmental impact way to dispose of remains makes sense, especially in crowded urban areas.
The natural organic reduction process yields a cubic yard (0.76 cubic meters) of soil per body — enough to fill about two large wheelbarrows. Pedersen said that the same laws that apply to scattered cremated remains apply to the soil: Relatives can keep the soil in urns, use it to plant a tree on private property or spread it on public land in the state as long as they comply with existing regarding remains.