Washington becomes first state ever to allow human composting

Gov. Jay Inslee, the Democrat from Washington, signed a bill into law on Tuesday that allows the composting of human bodies as an alternative to burials and cremations.

The Evergreen state is the first state to approve the measure after an earlier trial study that involved six backers who agreed to the organic reduction. The results were positive and the "soil smelled like soil and nothing else."

Troy Hottle, a fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told The Seattle Times earlier this year that the method is as "close to the natural process of decomposition [as] you’d assume a body would undergo before we had an industrialized society."

Licensed facilities in the state will offer a "natural organic reduction." The body is mixed with substances like wood chips into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks. Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.

"It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death," said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.

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The bill, SB 5001, takes effect on May 1, 2020.  The bill reportedly passed easily in Aprile and had bipartisan support in the state Senate and House of Representatives.

An NBC News report last year said the procedure could cost $5,500.

The Associated Press contributed to this report