From human remains to compost

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 23 May 2019

Washington became the first US state to legalize human composting with its governor signing a bill to cut carbon emissions from burials and cremations.

Under a law to go into effect next May, people can have their bodies transformed into soil suitable for use in gardening in a process called recomposition.

"Recomposition offers an alternative to embalming and burial or cremation that is natural, safe, sustainable and will result in significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage," said Katrina Spade, founder of Seattle-based Recompose, which will offer the service.

"The idea of returning to nature so directly and being folded back into the cycle of life and death is actually pretty beautiful."

Her approach - developed with Washington State University, which did clinical trials with donor bodies - calls for a dead person to be put in an hexagonal steel container filled with wood chips, alfalfa and straw. The container is shut and the body is decomposed by microbes within 30 days.

The end product is a dry, fluffy nutrient-rich soil resembling what someone could buy at a nursery for a vegetable garden. The process has in fact been long used for farm animals.

Spade expects a charge of around US$5,500 (HK$42,750) for a "natural organic reduction." That is a little over the cost of cremation but less than the price of burial in a casket.

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