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Washington state becomes the first to legalize 'human composting'

Washington state has become the first state in the country to legalize human composting.
In this Friday, April 19, 2019, photo Katrina Spade, the founder and CEO of Recompose, displays a sample of the compost material left from the decomposition of a cow, using a combination of wood chips, alfalfa and straw. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

WASHINGTON (WTHR) – Washington state has become the first state in the country to legalize human composting.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5001 into law Tuesday.

The new law will make it legal to compost human remains, in a process called natural organic reduction, as well as another practice called water cremation.

According to the Associated Press, the law also authorizes the use of alkaline hydrolysis — already used in 19 other states — which uses heat, pressure, water, and chemicals like lye to reduce remains to components of liquid and bone similar to cremated ashes that can be kept in urns or interred.

Human composting will be legal by May 1, 2020.

Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, a company that wants to give people alternative choice to cremation and conventional burial, said they worked with Washington State University to test its safety for environmental and human health. Six people donated their bodies for the study.

"With cremation, you have the burning of fossil fuels and emission of carbon and mercury particulates into the atmosphere. With conventional burial, there is quite a carbon footprint from the manufacturer and transport of caskets, grave liners, and then the upkeep of cemeteries," said Spade.