"Ick": One Left Coast State Can Legalize Human Composting With This Presidential Candidate's Signature

Screen grab via Washington state Senate Dems.
Washington Senate Dems
Screen grab via Washington state Senate Dems.

If someone had told me 15 and a half years ago when I started blogging that one day I’d be writing about human composting, I’d have told them they were crazy.


Yet here I am.

I did not even know this was a thing at all until I stumbled across a story about it during the course of my topic research for other articles.

Yes, the state of Washington is this-close to legalizing human 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.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said the governor hasn’t had a chance to review the final legislation. (Once it crosses his desk, he’ll have five days to act.) If Inslee signs the bill, the law would take effect May 1, 2020.

“I am very much in favor of the composting of human bodies!” said Wes McMahan, a retired cardiovascular intensive-care nurse who lives in Randle, Lewis County, and testified in support of the bill this week.

“When I’m done with this body that served me very well for the past 64 years, do I want to poison it with formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals? No,” McMahan said. “Burned? Not my first choice. But what about all the bacteria I’ve worked with so long in this body — do I want to give them a chance to do what they do naturally? I believe in doing things as naturally as possible.”


Just how does the process work?

Katrina Spade, the founder and CEO of Recompose, was a graduate student in architecture at University of Massachusetts Amherst when she came up with the idea — modeling it on a practice farmers have used for decades to dispose of livestock.

She modified that process a bit, and found that the use of wood chips, alfalfa and straw creates a mixture of nitrogen and carbon that accelerates natural decomposition when a body is placed in a temperature and moisture-controlled vessel and rotated.

Six human bodies — all donors who Spade said wanted to be part of this study — were reduced to soil during a pilot project at Washington State University last year. The transformation from body to soil took between four and seven weeks, Spade said.

Watch KING 5‘s report on this bill below where Spade explains the process:

KIRO 7 reports some interest in this practice from residents:

Leslie Christian is among the thousands of people who’ve expressed interest in recomposition.

“Recomposition is way more attractive to me from an environmental perspective and from an emotional perspective.” She’s received the mixed reactions one would expect from an idea that has to do with an alternative to traditional end-of-life choices.

She said her brother told her, “Oh, great, you can plant tomatoes in me,” and a friend said “Oh, ick.”


Gov. Inslee entered the presidential race earlier this year as a single-issue candidate. His focus? Climate change. Look for him to sign this bill as a way to continue shoring up his green creds.

Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. —


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