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Composting Human Bodies now legal? — The Grow Network Community
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Composting Human Bodies now legal?

OK, so apparently Washington State has passed a bill that would allow the composting of human bodies (it goes soon for final approval to the Governor).

A couple of things I am wondering about... uh, I didn't know it was illegal to bury your own dead.. I mean there are regs about how far from a waterway, etc. Adn that makes sense.

But really? Isn't this pretty much how bodies have been taken care of for well, milennia?



  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 2,140 admin

    Regulations (or lack thereof) are not always very widely known and they do vary by jurisdiction. In Manitoba, it is legal to do a lot of things that people are unaware of. To find these regulations & allowances is very hard to do. Funeral homes run a mighty business, but they arent the only way to do things as they would lead you to believe. They don't want you to know these things.

    Maybe about 10 years ago, my husband listened to a program put on by CBC Radio about regulations on handling a dead body and burial in Manitoba. The findings were inexpensive & freeing. It could all be done for approximately $100.

    I looked for the program over & over for quite some time. I even emailed them. Nothing. He remembered parts, but I really wish that I could have heard all about it too. Fascinating stuff. It us worth doing some digging...I guess literally, in this case.

    Bodies compost, but not when pumped through with embalming fluid. Only North America does this as a regular accepted thing.

  • Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 580 admin

    Jimers, Tasha is actually working on an article about this very issue. I have a lot of questions about it, but I can't help but feel that letting our bodies return to the earth would do far more good than harm in most instances. It's the natural cycle, but we're keeping that fertility from returning to the ground, creating more soil, etc.....

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 2,140 admin

    I suspect that because this is going to be law there, that it is possible that someone asked questions. Maybe it even had to do with the state trying to be "green" and look good, and/or lack of burial space.

    Many "green" ideas are far from green if you follow their origins, implementation or lasting impact that nobody thinks about.

    It may be innocent, but it may be that someone wants to start a business doing this, has the plans ready, and wants to have all the business? It would be interesting to know more about this bill's origins.

    I have thought this about bodies...we are far from organic anymore, even the most well intentioned folks. We will contaminate the earth we go into, unfortunately, but we can at least try to keep it minimal.

  • GrammyprepperGrammyprepper Mamaw, retired RN, jack of all trades master of none Zone 5BPosts: 172 ✭✭✭

    There are a couple of issues with this topic overall. Number one, is disease. A corpse with a communicable disease or any type of infection at all, needs to be treated differently than one who's passed due to 'natural causes'. The other that comes to mind, is all the prescription medications that folks are on these days, and how they do/don't decompose and could potentially contaminate the water and food supply. And here's an 'out there' one, what about all of the 'genetic' diseases? How will those translate to water tables and future plant growth? Think about 'biosludge' (and the movie of a similar name). I know that burying the dead on your own property was the way it was always done, but basic consideration of at least the water table were taken into consideration even back in 'the day'. IDK that 'wholesale' composting of bodies is the way to go. But it sounds like a money making 'green' way to go for someone. And BTW, what about all the 'greenhouse gasses' emitted by a rotting body, LOL, they're just going to tax that too LOL!

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 2,140 admin
    edited May 2019

    I wonder why egg shaped? That sounds awkward.

    You can only plant a seed so far into the ground. Too deep and it won't grow. What an interesting but odd thing to do. I am assuming it is not a plastic "egg". Ugh...that just reminded me of Easter egg hunting. lol Ew.

    Yes, the government's interests are usually for themselves first, rarely the peoples'.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 2,140 admin
  • Marjory WildcraftMarjory Wildcraft ✭✭✭ Posts: 865 admin

    Laurie & Grampyprepper, I too worry about the overall contamination. With some friend who are into survival, we discussed the question 'would you eat the other passengers if the plane went down in Alaska? My knee jerk reaction was "No" the average American body is completely toxic. LOL

    Composting does work wonders for cleaning up 'messes', but can microbiology handle all the chemicals in the average person?

    And hmmm, most people bury thier dogs or cats in the yard. Oh, and what about thier poop even when they are alive? "Purina Logs". What is the toxicity in that?

    Yikes! I am talking myself out of even burying anything! LOL

  • Marjory WildcraftMarjory Wildcraft ✭✭✭ Posts: 865 admin
  • JimersonJimerson Super J Pilot Point, TXPosts: 243 admin

    Those are some scary thoughts. Maybe I'll stick with creamation and my ashes can be mixed into compost..

  • Marjory WildcraftMarjory Wildcraft ✭✭✭ Posts: 865 admin

    You know creamation is hugely fossil fuel intensive...

    I'm going to see if we can get another presentation from the Home Funeral Association.

  • H_DH_D Posts: 391 ✭✭✭

    there is always the green cremation option called "alkaline hydrolysis" or simply "bio-creamation" which is more of a "warm bath" than "burning grandma in a fire"..

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 2,140 admin

    So, how does that work, Heather?

    My dad said that he wanted to be cremated to avoid being in a closed box (he is claustrophobic...just the thought bothered him). We said that it still involves being put into something enclosed. Maybe a "bath" would be more palatable for him?

  • Marjory WildcraftMarjory Wildcraft ✭✭✭ Posts: 865 admin

    "bio-creamation" uh, 'warm bath"?

    wow, I've never heard of that before. Oh wait a minute... was that what Walter White did on breaking bad? LOL.

  • H_DH_D Posts: 391 ✭✭✭

    @Marjory..basically its "Alkaline hydrolysis is a chemical process that uses a solution of 95% water and 5% potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide to reduce a body to components of liquid and bone. Bone fragments are retained so they can be dried and turned into a substance similar to cremated ashes." so there is no overuse of fossil fuels (unless your crematory is solar or wind powered LOL) there are still "ashes" and mother earth is happy and there are no toxic bodies being put in the ground. So yes, as WEIRD as it sounds, more like a warm bath than a burning LOL


  • daviddulockdaviddulock Posts: 1

    as a microbiologist from the un of chicago if this becomes main stream it will certainly kill millions and brain damage even more.do not use humane feces or bodys to fertilize any crops.thank you.

  • NyssaNyssa Posts: 1

    Humans may be diseased and toxic, but what about all the animals and plants that die? They might have diseases too, but they still rot and go back to the soil, and no one cares about them. Pets are fed human-made food that could cause cancer, plants are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, a raccoon may have rabies when it dies, and who knows the cause of death for every other plant and animal on the planet? If something was so healthy, why would it die? It’s safer to assume that everything that died died from disease or toxicity. And yet, plants can still grow from the disease-infested earth and nourish us. I think the only reason why people would have a problem with composting humans is because they don't want to be cannibals. This comes from thinking that humans and animals are different. But are they really? We’re all meat, and humans eat meat.

  • sidboultersidboulter Posts: 1

    Regarding this topic, try watching the TEDx talk by Katrina Spade titled "When I die, recompose me".

  • DavidSmuinDavidSmuin Posts: 1

    Approach with caution. There used to be rendering plants in most small communities in W. Colorado, but they have all disappeared due to Gov't regulations which made them unprofitable. Now when an animal dies on my homestead there is really not a good legal way to dispose of the carcass so I have to employ the strategy of shovel and shut up. If you bury them deep the soil does not benefit, at least in terms of a human lifetime, and if you do not bury them deep, the critters dig them up and eat them. You can not legally haul them out into the boonies for the scavengers either. I would like to see humans deal with the animal dead in a sanitary and beneficial way before tackling the very ticklish subject of composting humans. There are important moral issues as well as health issues to be dealt with long before I start putting my dearly beloveds in my compost pile

  • BethBeth Posts: 1

    This is just another move on the part of those who have no regard for human life or the human who once had life. The abortion industry uses (or did use) a company called Stericycle to collect and dispose of the murdered babies, many or most of which end up in the local landfill. No dignity, just another piece of trash to be thrown away and forgotten. Medical waste and biohazards are supposed to be disposed of in a clean way, but humans? Who is left to care about them?

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 2,140 admin

    I agree.

    Something to consider, though, is that people are filled with all sorts of toxic substances that are not natural. Not everything decomposes (and some slower than others), as evidenced by so much contamination in our water systems. To decontaminate an area, there would have to be research on what substances are going into the ground and the correct plants that would take exactly those substances out. A forest generally does not have the same contamination concentration.

    You are so very correct in stating that the coffins as they are and embalming fluid, plus the chemicals burned during cremation certainly can't be good. There is really no reason for any of those three to be used, and money isn't a good reason.

  • Boyd BadtenBoyd Badten Posts: 1

    No thank you.

    My intuition tells me that there are toxic substances in humans which are best cremated and not introduced into plant life, especially food crops.

  • greenleafgreenleaf Posts: 19 ✭✭

    Ah, for the days of minding your own business.

    There are no easy answers. Mother Nature does do an excellent job of taking care of herself. Unfortunately for us humans, I've often thought that She has done a magnificent job of making sure that we don't get too big for our britches, so to speak. Cholera is natural. Chicken pox and hives are natural. Allergies (Achooo!) are natural. Microbes of just about every sort are extremely natural -- they just don't necessarily lend themselves to human health.

    So, I dunno. I like the idea of becoming one with the earth at my death. I won't need this body, and it would be a pleasant thought that it might nourish a flower bed or a tree. As for aborted babies winding up in the landfill, the old song The Ash Grove comes to mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajNP5sb3kQ4 Or perhaps the old Isaac Asimov science fiction story of the man who wanted to be buried on earth, which had become a giant memorial garden. Because he did not have connections, his request was refused. After visiting, however, he ceased to petition. He was the CEO of a giant fertilizer company -- a company that supplied the gardens.

    But...just as a cautionary tale, consider Make Room, Make Room, by Harry Harrison, the book on which the movie Soylent Green was based. And then consider kuru. https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/solving-the-mystery-of-laughing-disease Quite aside from the shades of the Donner party, eating your own kind can have serious consequences.

    Composting humans is a long way from consuming them. But quite aside from the general "ick" factor, there are practical considerations.

  • Cynthia ParkerCynthia Parker Posts: 2

    I keep seeing warnings that you should not compost dog feces because of the danger of parasites and pathogens being transmitted to humans. Dogs are a different species from us, we have few parasites and pathogens in common. But you can't say that about humans. How do they propose to compost human bodies to avoid contamination? My husband wants to know how they propose to handle the bones, which won't compost well. We also want to know what is done with the goo left from Alkaline hydrolysis.

    I attended a funeral on a ranch in Arizona once. It was very old-fashion; the ranch hands dug the grave with a backhoe, the unembalmed body (in a coffin) was lowered in, and the hands covered it up. They used a purchased coffin, but I believe they could have used a home-made one if they had wanted to. It was the best funeral I have ever attended (if you can rate such a rite as "best")

  • karenkaren Posts: 77 ✭✭

    Cremation is probably the best idea but then funeral homes charge enormous sums for that procedure and there are jurisdictions everywhere that wont even allow a person to sprinkle ashes into the ocean let alone on one's own property. !

    Geez. as for compost. Oh marjory i would never have taken you to be skittish on compost! LOL If one of my cats dies it will go into a hot compost pile. hardly anything survives that. dog poop is collected and then turned into the hot compost. Jury is out on cat poop and for some of the same reasons on human remains. but frankly i am not sure.

    i care HOT compost everything!!!!

  • Cynthia ParkerCynthia Parker Posts: 2

    Cremation in the US runs on average between $1,500 and $3,500, depending on whether there is some kind of service involved or not. Or, you can donate your body to science, and get cremated afterwards for free!

    My husband and I are both veterans, so we can be buried or have our ashes spread in the ocean by the US Navy. This is available to:

    • Members of the uniformed services,
    • Retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged from any branch of the service.
    • Dependent family members of active duty personnel, retirees, and uniformed services veterans.
    • U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command.

    There is no charge, but family members can't attend, and the time and location is at the Navy's discretion. This is what was done for my husband's parents. The ceremony is done with full honors, and afterwards a letter is sent to the family with a full description of the ceremony and the location of it.

    If the family wants to attend, or they want to specify the time and location, that can be done by the Sea Services Veterans Program for a reasonable fee.

    Here are the instructions for a civilian's sea burial: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/09/15/how-to-bury-a-loved-one-at-sea-in-4-easy-steps/

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