WA - State on cusp of legalizing human composting

Discussion in 'Up to the Minute' started by Seattle1, Apr 19, 2019.

  1. Seattle1

    Seattle1 Well-Known Member

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    Washington on the cusp of becoming first state to legalize human composting

    4/19/19

    [​IMG]
    A rendering of a future Recompose site, where people can opt to have their remains composted. (MOLT Studios)

    Washington is just a governor’s signature away from becoming the first state in the U.S. to legalize the “natural organic reduction” of human remains, colloquially known as “composting.”

    On Friday, the state Senate and House of Representatives finalized their approval of bill 5001 (titled “concerning human remains”), which enshrines “organic reduction” and alkaline hydrolysis, a dissolving process sometimes called “liquid cremation,” as acceptable alternatives to traditional burial and cremation.

    [...]
    In the seven years since Spade formally launched the idea, which started as a nonprofit called the Urban Death Project, she has worked with scientists in Eastern Washington and North Carolina to study how human bodies decompose in soil. (One trial involved the bodies of six supporters who’d volunteered their remains for research.) The studies demonstrated that the resulting compost met — and sometimes exceeded — state and federal safety standards for pathogens and metals that could be dangerous to humans, animals, or nearby plants. (Also important: The soil smelled like soil and nothing else.)

    In other words, according to the research, carefully and properly composted human remains are safe enough to use in a household garden.

    Troy Hottle, a postdoctoral fellow with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has been studying the financial and ecological costs of funerary options, including “recomposition,” with researchers in the U.S. and the Netherlands. “Recompose gets as close to the natural process of decomposition [as] you’d assume a body would undergo before we had an industrialized society,” Hottle said. “In an urban environment, which is where the global population is growing and land use is at a premium, it’s the most efficient and environmentally sound method of burial.”
     
  2. Seattle1

    Seattle1 Well-Known Member

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    Seattle could get an Urban Death Project human composter in just 7 years

    10/28/16

    [​IMG]
    Rural: A rendering of the recomposition prototype, which will be built at Washington State University. This rendering was done by the architecture firm Olson Kundig. Katrina Spade is the head designer behind the Urban Death Project, an initiative to find an alternative to burial or cremation — composting, based on technology used in livestock composting. Friday, Oct. 6, 2016

    “Our bodies,” Spade said, “are full of potential. We have nutrients in us and there’s no way we should be packed into a box that doesn’t let us go into the earth. Decay and decomposition are amazing processes we are terrified of because they might seem icky and scary — your body aging, your food rotting — but without those processes, we would not be alive.”

    Recompose
     
  3. Jim_M

    Jim_M Well-Known Member

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    I really don’t know what to think about this.

    On one hand, I could possibly see the composting used for forestry, but for something meant for consumer consumption, hmmm, not so much.
     
  4. FruitSnack

    FruitSnack Well-Known Member

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    Ok, uneducated person here but would a cadaver dog lock in on your garden?
     
  5. Jim_M

    Jim_M Well-Known Member

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    I thought about that also, but that article said the process removed the odors. ??
     
  6. Eleanor Rigby

    Eleanor Rigby Well-Known Member

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    I would think that the "end product" is essentially post-decomposition, so no longer emitting cadaverine (putrefaction) odors that cadaver dogs are trained to detect, but I'm no scientist! MOO.

    However, it's hard to know what dogs might do in a garden. A certain dim-witted Bichon literally eats the dirt in the garden where I apply Holly Tone fertilizer. Hopefully, cadaver dogs are more intelligent and better trained (and not Bichons). MOO.
     
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  7. Eleanor Rigby

    Eleanor Rigby Well-Known Member

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    The cremains ("ashes") from traditional cremation are toxic to plants because of the high level of salt and other imbalances. I'm assuming from the articles linked above that the "human composting" process prevents this problem? I wonder if the "recompose" end-product is as esthetically suitable for ceremonial "dispersal" as cremains. The description mentioned "dissolving," so I'm thinking the end-product is a liquid? Also wondering if it is individual "composting" or mass "composting." These concerns could be an impediment to replacing traditional cremation for some people. MOO.

    Read more at Gardening Know How: Planting In Cremation Ashes – Are Cremation Ashes Good For Plants Planting In Cremation Ashes – Are Cremation Ashes Good For Plants
    Cremation ashes may be harmful when placed in the soil or around trees or plants. While cremains are composed of nutrients that plants require, primarily calcium, potassium and phosphorus, human ashes also contain an extremely high amount of salt, which is toxic for most plants and can be leached into the soil. Additionally, cremains don’t contain other essential micronutrients such as manganese, carbon and zinc. This nutritional imbalance may actually hinder plant growth. For example, too much calcium in soil can quickly reduce the supply of nitrogen, and may also limit photosynthesis. And finally, cremation ashes have a very high pH level, which can be toxic to many plants because it prevents the natural release of beneficial nutrients within the soil.
     
  8. SeesSeas

    SeesSeas FLORIDIAN

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    Recompose is a Public Benefit Corporation
    FAQ About Recomposition — Recompose
    [...]
    WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BONES?
    Everything - including bones and teeth – is recomposed. That’s because our system creates the perfect environment for thermophilic (i.e. heat-loving) microbes and beneficial bacteria to break everything down quite quickly. At the end of our process, all that remains is soft, beautiful soil.
    [​IMG]
    WHAT ABOUT ARTIFICIAL HIPS?
    We screen for non-organics like metal fillings, pacemakers, and artificial limbs during the process, and recycle them whenever possible.
    [​IMG]
    HOW MUCH SOIL IS CREATED PER PERSON?
    Our process creates about a cubic yard of soil per person. Friends and family are welcome to take some (or all) home to grow a tree or a garden. Any remaining soil will go to nourish conservation land in the Puget Sound region.
    [​IMG]
    HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM GREEN BURIAL?
    Our process is modeled on green burial, but designed for our cities where land is scarce. Recomposition happens inside of a vessel, which is modular and re-usable. Bodies are covered with wood chips and aerated, providing the perfect environment for naturally occurring microbes and beneficial bacteria. Over the span of about 30 days, the body is recomposed, creating soil which can then be used to grow new life.
    [...]
     
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  9. Eleanor Rigby

    Eleanor Rigby Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the info! Seems like the "recompose" has eliminated the problems associated with returning "cremains" to the environment. If "recompose" is really odorless "soil," then for most people there would probably not be an "ick factor" preventing ceremonial dispersal in nature. JMO.
     
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  10. Jim_M

    Jim_M Well-Known Member

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    The more I think about this, the more I wonder about these wonderful benefits.

    Call me a worry wart, but how much previous testing has been completed? You know, like no bad health effects from people being exposed* to that final product?

    *Exposed could be actually working with the material. Day in, day out, in your gardening. Exposure tests for 5 years? Maybe 2 years? Or ZERO years?

    *Exposed could be eating products grown in the soils with these products in use. Same testing questions would also apply here. I hope?

    [This is exactly the type of testing that we have actually gone lax on. We used to test everything that could/would be exposed to the population. I'm guessing our regulations were not popular. But that's another subject unto itself.]

    I have to admit that I am worried about products containing the wording on their packaging:

    Manufactured on shared equipment that also processes products containing tree nuts and peanuts.

    Oh wait, wrong one. Meant this one:

    Partially produced with genetic engineering.

    I wonder what the labeling will be, oh, wait, will they even have to label these 'goods' grown from these soils?

    How, and when, did they figure out asbestos was bad for our life environment?

    Nah, nothing to worry about here. Move right along.....
     
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  11. Charlot123

    Charlot123 Well-Known Member

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    No. Just no. Please.

    I love my state, I support our lawmakers, but please, not this.
     
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  12. MarziPanda

    MarziPanda Well-Known Member

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    It sounds like a great idea to me. With climate change being what it is, and our planet in such bad shape, and deforestation being a huge problem, we need to find better alternatives. Cremation is hugely polluting. Burial takes up land (the cemetery near me is expanding... and they're going to cut down a nearby woods to do it) and uses harmful chemicals in the embalming process. This is a good alternative for people who want to harm the planet less even after death. It seems like it will likely stay done in the same way as Recompose are doing it. Done in buildings, over a month, and then the soil used to nourish forests and conservation land - or given to the family to spread should they wish. I doubt it would ever actually be used to grow food. The tests have indicated that the resulting compost met or exceeded safety standards. I get that people don't like death. As a society we don't like to talk about it. But it's a fact of life. It'll happen to us all some day. I can guarantee that the fruit and vegetables you're already eating are grown using the power of dead animals. That's just how the food chain works. At the end of the day, humans are just really smart animals. And like I said, the soil won't be used to grow food anyway. I'd personally be all for this happening to me.
     
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  13. Jim_M

    Jim_M Well-Known Member

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    They best not be using dead animals to grow our crops! I think you would have millions of vegans/vegetarians up in arms! But what do I know...
     
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  14. SeesSeas

    SeesSeas FLORIDIAN

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    Washington State Weighs New Option After Death: Human Composting
    Jan. 26, 2019
    [...]
    In truth, composting is an ancient and basic method of body disposal. A corpse in the ground without embalming chemicals or a coffin, or in a quickly biodegradable coffin, becomes soil over time.
    [...]
    People are drawn to the idea of aboveground decomposition mainly for environmental reasons, Mr. Pedersen said. There’s no coffin, no chemicals, none of the fossil fuels that would be needed for cremation, and no expensive cemetery plot required. Some religious traditions also favor ideas of simplicity and of earth returning to earth.
    [...]
    In a study last year at Washington State University, six bodies donated for the research were placed in a closed container, wrapped in organic materials like alfalfa, then bathed in a stream of air warmed by microbes, and periodically turned. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, a professor of soil science and sustainable agriculture and the lead researcher in the study, said that after about 30 days, the bodies essentially became soil.

    Fears that composted remains might smell bad or contain toxic elements — from dental fillings, for example, or pharmaceutical residues — were allayed, Dr. Carpenter-Boggs said. She said that the heat generated by micro-organisms broke down organic matter and pathogens, and levels of pollutants like cadmium and mercury were within federal limits.
    [...]
     
  15. silvernblack

    silvernblack New Member

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    Doesn't matter to me. It's ok if folks want to do it. Seems to me like cremation would be more efficient use of space and less problems though. Don't really know why anybody cares if somebody wants to do this.
     
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  16. Peppery

    Peppery Well-Known Member

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    I’ve always been of the mindset that I want something good to come from my body after I die. Or at least not harmful. Originally I wanted to be cremated after my organs were donated, but since starting nursing school, I want my body donated to medical research. If something positive can be gained after death, whether it be donation, medical research or now composted soil, I’m all for it. Sticking people in a box and taking up land doesn’t make much sense to me. To each their own though.

    Just a reminder to discuss your wishes with loved ones and make financial provisions in your will! Medical research donation requires money to preserve and transport a body. Educate yourself!
     
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  17. Eleanor Rigby

    Eleanor Rigby Well-Known Member

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    I really don't think "human compost" is going to be used on commercial farms or end up growing the produce I buy at the grocery store. I would think most families would use their loved ones' "compost" to plant a memorial tree or flower garden or scatter it in nature, but if they did use it in a vegetable garden, I doubt it would be hazardous, as long as the guidelines for screening for disease were followed. The same methods have been used for years on farms for disposing of animal remains. MOO.

    From FAQ About Recomposition linked above:
    "Friends and family are welcome to take some (or all) home to grow a tree or a garden. Any remaining soil will go to nourish conservation land in the Puget Sound region."

    I'd personally take my chances with the testing for bacteria from Recompose before I would the testing of the chemicals from Dow, Monsanto and their ilk. JMO.

    Article from December that describes the testing a bit more:
    Washington could become the first state to legalize human composting
    The safety of the process depends on maintaining a temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 consecutive hours to destroy pathogens, according to Spade. This heat is generated by the naturally occurring microbes.

    Recompose, a public-benefit corporation Spade founded in 2017 to expand research and development of her concept, recently co-sponsored a $75,000 pilot program through Washington State University.

    Led by researcher Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, associate professor of sustainable and organic agriculture at Washington State, the five-month program recomposed six donor bodies in a carefully controlled environment, aiming to allay concerns about spreading pathogens.

    The research concluded in August, and the recomposition of human remains was found to be safe, according to Carpenter-Boggs, who plans to submit her results for publication in 2019. (Recomposition isn’t for everyone — some pathogens, like the bacteria that causes anthrax, are known to survive composting in animals, so recomposition’s safety will depend on excluding people with certain illnesses.)

    Maybe it's because I was born and raised in WA and influenced by the environmentalist culture there, but I think it will be a good option for those who want it. I have requested cremation and scattering on my favorite mountain in WA (legal with permit), but am concerned about the effects of salt and pH of "ashes" from traditional cremation if they are not very lightly scattered to avoid any concentrated amounts on vegetation. Composting might be a solution. I'll be interested to see the outcome of all this. MOO.
     
  18. MarziPanda

    MarziPanda Well-Known Member

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    Haha, I just mean that the nutrients that naturally come in the soil are there because of the circle of life. Animal lives, eats plants (or eats an animal that eats grass) dies and is broken down by insects and microbes into nutrients to grow more plants which animals then eat. Manure spread on fields comes from animals that have eaten plants... which have been grown with nutrients likely from dead animals. Just don't tell the vegans!
     
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  19. Isabelle

    Isabelle Verified registered nurse

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    It may be a good thing, depending on how it is done. At this point it reminds me of what the Nazi’s did with dead bodies.
     
  20. Seattle1

    Seattle1 Well-Known Member

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    Western State University (WSU) located in eastern WA has long had a large animal vet program, and home to many ethical, environmental researchers. When neighboring states Oregon, Idaho, and CA started employing cremation by alkaline hydrolysis (remains are mixed with water and a solution made up of corrosive chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide, heated and then dissolved, leaving only bone and metal fragments) researchers at WSU quickly wanted to demonstrate an equivalent livestock composting without the chemicals. Ten plus years later, it was not surprising that the wood chip beds with various composting materials (to determine which mix worked best) was perfected to the point it's now considered for human composting.

    MOO
     
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