By Tafline Laylin
When Americans die, most are buried or cremated. Washington could soon become the first state to allow another option: human composting.
The novel approach, known as “recomposition,” involves placing bodies in a vessel and hastening their decomposition into a nutrient-dense soil that can then be returned to families. The aim is a less expensive way of dealing with human remains that is better for the environment than burial, which can leach chemicals into the ground, or cremation, which releases earth-warming carbon dioxide.
“People from all over the state who wrote to me are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative for themselves,” said state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat, who is sponsoring a bill in Washington’s Legislature to expand the options for disposing of human remains. The recomposition bill would also make Washington the 17th state to allow alkaline hydrolysis, the dissolving of bodies in a pressurized vessel with water and lye until just liquid and bone remains. Pedersen plans to introduce the bill when the new legislative session begins next month.
民主党参议员杰米·佩德森（Jamie Pedersen）表示：“来自全国各地的人都写信给我，他们对成为一棵树或者为自己选择不同的选择感到非常兴奋。”他正在华盛顿立法机构赞助法案扩大法案。 处理人类遗骸的选择。 重新组合法案还将使华盛顿成为允许碱性水解的第17个州，将物质溶解在加压容器中，加入水和碱液直至液体和骨骼残留。 Pedersen计划在下个月新的立法会议开始时提出该法案。
Pedersen sees recomposition as an environmental and a social justice issue. He said allowing it would particularly benefit people who can’t afford a funeral or aren’t comfortable with cremation. Recompose aims to charge $5,500 for its services, while a traditional burial generally cost more than $7,000 in 2017, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. (Cremation can cost less than $1,000, though that doesn’t include a service or an urn.)
佩德森认为重组是一个环境和社会正义问题。 他说允许它特别有利于那些无法负担葬礼或对火化感到不舒服的人。 根据国家殡仪馆协会的数据，重新计划的目的是为其服务收取5,500美元，而传统的埋葬费用通常在2017年超过7,000美元。 （火葬费用不到1000美元，但不包括服务或骨灰盒。）
The push to allow composting of human remains originates with Katrina Spade, 41, a Seattle-based designer who started focusing on the idea in 2013 while working on her master’s in architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
允许堆肥人类遗骸的推动源于卡特里娜·斯佩德（Katrina Spade），一位来自西雅图的设计师，他在2013年开始专注于这一想法，同时在马萨诸塞州阿默斯特大学（University of Massachusetts Amherst）攻读建筑硕士学位。
“We really only have two easily accessible options in the U.S. — cremation and burial,” she said. “And the question is: Why do we only have two options, and what would it look like if we had a dozen?”
“我们在美国实际上只有两个容易获得的选择 - 火葬和埋葬，”她说。 “问题是：为什么我们只有两种选择，如果我们有十几种，那会是什么样子？”
Spade’s initial goal was to design a system that would restore people’s connection to death and its aftermath, which she said had been severed in part by the funeral industry. A friend introduced her to the farming practice of composting livestock after they die. Called mortality composting, the practice has been shown to safely keep pathogens from contaminating the land, while creating a richer soil.
斯帕德的最初目标是设计一个能够恢复人们与死亡及其后果联系的系统，她说这部分已被殡葬业部分切断。 一位朋友介绍了她死后堆肥的农业实践。 被称为死亡率堆肥，已被证明可以安全地防止病原体污染土地，同时创造更丰富的土壤。
“It was like a lightbulb went off and I started to envision a system that uses the same principles as mortality composting … that would be meaningful and appropriate for human beings,” she said.
She worked with researchers at Western Carolina University and the Washington State University to turn her vision, which she dubbed “recomposition,” into reality. The process involves placing unembalmed human remains wrapped in a shroud in a 5-foot-by-10-foot cylindrical vessel with a bed of organic material such as wood chips, alfalfa and straw. Air is then periodically pulled into the vessel, providing oxygen to accelerate microbial activity. Within approximately one month, the remains are reduced to a cubic yard of compost that can be used to grow new plants.
她与西卡罗来纳大学和华盛顿州立大学的研究人员合作，将她所谓的“重组”的愿景变为现实。 该过程包括将未经处理的人类遗骸包裹在一个5英尺×10英尺的圆柱形容器中，该容器带有一层有机材料，如木屑，苜蓿和稻草。 然后定期将空气吸入容器中，提供氧气以加速微生物活动。 在大约一个月内，剩余物被减少到一立方码的堆肥，可用于种植新植物。
The vessel where the composting takes place.CAHNRS Communications / Washington State Univ.
堆肥发生的船只.CAHNRS Communications / Washington State Univ。
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.)
根据Carpenter-Boggs的说法，这项研究于8月份结束，人类遗骸的重新组合被认为是安全的，Carpenter-Boggs计划在2019年提交她的研究结果。（重组不适合所有人 - 一些病原体，如细菌那样） 导致炭疽病，在动物堆肥中存活，因此重组的安全性将取决于排除患有某些疾病的人。）
Recompose founder Katrina Spade, left, with researcher Lynne Carpenter-Boggs.CAHNRS Communications / Washington State Univ.
g左边的创始人Katrina Spade与研究员Lynne Carpenter-Boggs.CAHNRS Communications / Washington State Univ重组。
“The advantage that I see as a soil scientist and an environmental scientist is that it is relatively low in resource use and it also creates this soil-like or compost-like product that helps to store carbon,” Carpenter-Boggs said. Human compost adds nutrients to soil, potentially improving its ability to absorb water and reduce erosion, she added.
An earlier version of Pedersen’s bill, which included alkaline hydrolysis but not recomposition, failed in Washington in 2017, which Pedersen attributed to opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.
Thomas Parker, a former lobbyist for the Washington State Catholic Conference, said the church was concerned about dissolved human remains draining into sewers.
But State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican who chaired the Senate’s Labor and Commerce Committee in 2017, when the bill was introduced, said the church’s opposition did not play a significant role in the legislation’s failure. “We prioritized other issues that year,” Baumgartner said.
但是，州议员迈克尔·鲍姆加特纳（Michael Baumgartner）是一名共和党人，他在2017年提出参议院劳工和商务委员会主席时提出该法案，他表示教会的反对意见并没有在立法失败中发挥重要作用。 “我们在那一年优先考虑其他问题，”鲍姆加特纳说。
Alkaline hydrolysis may go against Catholic doctrine that requires the human body to be respected, said James LeGrys, theological adviser to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. LeGrys was unfamiliar with recomposition, but noted that it could be problematic if body parts are separated in any way.
There is little risk of this happening through recomposition unless families request it, according to Spade, who said she has not received opposition from any groups, religious or otherwise. She anticipates that some families may choose to take their loved one’s remains home to plant, while others may donate remains to nourish conservation lands.
Pedersen has signed up several co-sponsors of the bill in the state Senate, which is now under Democratic control, and he’s optimistic about its chances. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has not taken a public position on the bill and did not respond to a request for comment. If the bill passes, it would take effect May 1, 2020.
佩德森已经在州参议院签署了该议案的几个共同提案国，该议案现在由民主党控制，他对其机会持乐观态度。 民主党州长杰伊·英斯利（Jay Inslee）尚未对该法案采取公开立场，并没有回应置评请求。 如果该法案通过，它将于2020年5月1日生效。
This would allow Recompose to officially launch operations in Seattle. Spade hopes to partner with funeral homes and cemeteries to bring recomposition to other parts of the state and country. In the meantime, her company is developing a modular vessel design and refining its business model.
这将允许Recompose在西雅图正式启动运营。 Spade希望与殡仪馆和墓地合作，将重新组合带到州和国家的其他地方。 与此同时，她的公司正在开发模块化船舶设计并改进其商业模式。
For Spade, the pilot program at Washington State University affirmed the inherent beauty of naturally returning humans to the soil.
“This is something that is really good for humanity,” she said.
CORRECTION (Dec. 30, 2018 9:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated a university Katrina Spade worked with. It is Washington State University, not the University of Washington.