DENVER – Food scraps and biodegradable utensils are common fodder for compost, but in Colorado human remains could soon be turned into soil too.
The Colorado state legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow composting of human remains instead of traditional processes such as burial and cremation.
State Representative Brianna Titone, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said she went to the funeral and, considering burial or cremation as the two options, thought: “I don’t know if I want any of these things. “
When she learned about human composting, she said, “It really turned me on.”
If Governor Jared Polis signs the bill, which lawmakers have deemed likely, Colorado would become the second state to legalize human composting. Washington state did so in 2019, and lawmakers in Oregon, California and New York have proposed human composting legislation. A representative for Mr Polis did not respond to a request for comment regarding his position on the bill.
The legislation was introduced last year, but “she ended up dying during the Covid session, no pun intended,” said Rep. Matt Soper, a Republican who was a co-sponsor of the bill.
In an attempt to lighten the mood while discussing the bill at the State Capitol on Monday, Ms Titone and Mr Soper told their colleagues they had ‘resurrected’ the bill from the legislative session. from last year. “Look alive!” Ms. Titone said, initiating the discussion. “We know you’ve dug it already.”
The human composting process takes about 30 days, Soper said. Under the new law, it would be illegal to sell soil produced from human compost or use it to grow food for human consumption.
Mr Soper said he had spoken with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which said it would be legal to place the soil on public land.
Recompose, a company that provides human composting services in Washington, places the body on a bed of wood chips, alfalfa and straw inside a steel cylinder 8 feet long by 4 feet high , according to its website. Each body creates approximately one cubic meter of soil.
“Everything – including bones and teeth – is transformed” in the process, its website says. The contents of the cylinder are also mixed by members of the Recompose staff, “which helps break up any remaining bone fragments and teeth.”
However, inorganic materials such as prostheses and artificial joints are pulled out of the cylinder and removed.
Katrina Spade, co-founder and chief executive of Recompose, said Wednesday the company is already researching locations in the Denver area, where it hopes to build a 50-cylinder facility if the bill becomes law.
Ms Spade said Colorado residents have expressed interest in Recompose, adding that “there is an ethic of ecological love and respect in the Denver area and Colorado in general, everywhere from the mountains to the agriculture that takes place in the state.
She said the Recompose process saved about a metric ton of carbon dioxide for each body composted rather than traditionally incinerated or buried. Mr Soper, who represents a rural part of Colorado, said some of his Liberal voters were interested in human composting for its environmental benefits.
Among his more conservative constituents in the farming community, Soper said, there are “farmers or ranchers who really like the idea of being linked to the land on which they were born and raised.”
The bill received bipartisan support in the Colorado Senate, but 18 votes against in the House, all from Republicans. Mr Soper said they had raised concerns that composting was not a “dignified” way to dispose of leftovers, with some citing the Catholic Church’s opposition to the practice.
But Soper said he saw it less about explicitly supporting human composting and more about offering a choice.
“Why not?” he said. “Why should the government ban this type of option at Coloradans?”
Mr Soper said Colorado was among the states with the fewest regulations for crematoria and funeral homes, making it ideal for new human composting businesses.
Recompose has patents pending on its cylinders, but not on the human composting process, Spade said, adding that she hoped human composting would become “the default choice for death care.”