Washington is 1st state to allow composting of human bodies

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, turns to talk with Katrina Spade, upper left, the founder and CEO of Recompose, a company that hopes to use composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., before signing a bill into law that allows licensed facilities to offer "natural organic reduction," which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into soil in a span of several weeks. (AP)
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In this April 19, 2019, file photo, Katrina Spade, the founder and CEO of Recompose, a company that hopes to use composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains, poses for a photo in a cemetery in Seattle, as she displays a sample of compost material left from the decomposition of a cow using a combination of wood chips, alfalfa and straw. (AP)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Washington is 1st state to allow composting of human bodies

  • The law, which takes effect in May 2020, added composting as well as alkaline hydrolysis, a process already legal in 19 other states

SEATTLE: Ashes to ashes, guts to dirt.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains.
It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, 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.
Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land.
“That’s a serious weight on the earth and the environment as your final farewell,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure.
He said the legislation was inspired by his neighbor: Katrina Spade, who was an architecture graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, when she began researching the funeral industry. She came up with the idea for human composting, modeling it on a practice farmers have long used to dispose of livestock.
She tweaked the process and found that wood chips, alfalfa and straw created a mixture of nitrogen and carbon that accelerates natural decomposition when a body is placed in a temperature- and moisture-controlled vessel and rotated.
A pilot project at Washington State University tested the idea last year on six bodies, all donors who Spade said wanted to be part of the study.
In 2017, Spade founded Recompose, a company working to bring the concept to the public. It’s working on raising nearly $7 million to establish a facility in Seattle and begin to expand elsewhere, she said.
State law previously dictated that remains be disposed of by burial or cremation. The law, which takes effect in May 2020, added composting as well as alkaline hydrolysis, a process already legal in 19 other states. The latter uses heat, pressure, water and chemicals like lye to reduce remains.
Cemeteries across the country are allowed to offer natural or “green” burials, by which people are buried in biodegradable shrouds or caskets without being embalmed. Composting could be a good option in cities where cemetery land is scarce, Pedersen said. Spade described it as “the urban equivalent to natural burial.”
The state senator said he has received angry emails from people who object to the idea, calling it undignified or disgusting.
“The image they have is that you’re going to toss Uncle Henry out in the backyard and cover him with food scraps,” Pedersen said.
To the contrary, he said, the process will be respectful.
Recompose’s website envisions an atrium-like space where bodies are composted in compartments stacked in a honeycomb design. Families will be able to visit, providing an emotional connection typically missing at crematoriums, the company says.
“It’s an interesting concept,” said Edward Bixby, president of the Placerville, California-based Green Burial Council. “I’m curious to see how well it’s received.”


Promised $9 million online, US teen killed ‘best friend’: police

Suspect Rhett McKenzie Nelson talks to an attorney as he appears in Los Angeles Superior court, Thursday, June 13, 2019 in Los Angeles. (AP)
Updated 19 June 2019
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Promised $9 million online, US teen killed ‘best friend’: police

  • Court documents say Schilmiller admitted to attempting to blackmail Brehmer after the murder into sexually assaulting young girls

LOS ANGELES: An American teenager has been charged with conspiring to murder her “best friend” after a man she met online offered her $9 million to commit the crime.
According to investigators, Denali Brehmer, an 18-year-old from Alaska, was recruited to kill her friend by a man a few years her elder, 21-year-old Darin Schilmiller of Indiana.
The pair had previously hooked up online, with Schilmiller assuming a fake identity and posing as a millionaire named “Tyler.”
Court documents say that during the course of their online relationship, they discussed a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska.
Schilmiller promised Brehmer $9 million or more to send him videos or photographs of the macabre attack.
Brehmer then proceeded to recruit four friends and the group settled on Cynthia Hoffman — described as one of Brehmer’s best friends — as their victim.
On June 2, authorities say 19-year-old Hoffman was lured to a hiking trail northeast of Anchorage where she was bound with duct tape and shot once in the back of the head before being pushed into a river.
Her body was discovered on June 4.
Local news reports said Hoffman’s father has described his daughter as having a learning disability and the mindset of a 12-year-old.
Police say the victim was driven to Thunderbird Falls by Brehmer and Kayden McIntosh, a 16-year-old boy, under the guise of going on a riverside hike.
McIntosh allegedly shot Hoffman with Brehmer’s gun and dumped her body in the water.
Authorities say Brehmer communicated with Schilmiller throughout the murder, sending him “Snapchat photographs and videos of Hoffman tied up and of the body afterward.”
Both Brehmer and McIntosh have been arrested and charged in relation to the murder. Schilmiller has also been arrested along with three others accused of assisting in the planning or execution of the killing.
A grand jury last Friday indicted all six defendants for first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, two counts of second-degree murder and other charges.
Schilmiller and Brehmer were also indicted on Tuesday on federal child pornography and child exploitation charges.
Police said that a search on Brehmer’s phone during their investigation into Hoffman’s death revealed that the teen — at Schilmiller’s direction — had produced videos depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a minor and sent them to Schilmiller.
Court documents say Schilmiller admitted to attempting to blackmail Brehmer after the murder into sexually assaulting young girls.
Both face up to life in prison on the child pornography charges.
They also face up to 99 years in prison for each of the murder charges, the conspiracy to commit murder charge, and the solicitation to commit murder charge.