Washington Is Set to Become the First State to Allow Human Composting

iStock.com/tortoon
iStock.com/tortoon

People in Washington state may soon have a new option to choose from when planning their burial wishes. As The Seattle Times reports, a bill that would legalize human composting has passed the state's Senate and House of Representatives, and now it's waiting on final approval from the governor.

Human composting is what it sounds like: Instead of being cremated or pumped with embalming chemicals and buried in a casket, people can elect to have their corpses placed in the earth where microbes break them down naturally and convert them into soil. The process happens inside special reusable, hexagonal "recomposition vessels" especially designed for the urban environment. Bill 5001 [PDF] also covers alkaline hydrolysis or "liquid cremation," a process in which human remains are placed in a solution of water and lye to gradually decompose. Alkaline hydrolysis is already legal in 15 states, but if Washington approves the bill, it will become the first state to allow human composting.

Proponents of so-called "organic reduction" say it's more eco-friendly than traditional burial methods. Nutrients in the body help nourish life, and no chemicals or materials are added to the soil that will stay there for hundreds of years. It's also about $2000 cheaper than traditional burial methods.

The bill passed 80-16 in the House and 36-11 in the Senate. Governor Jay Inslee is expected to make a decision on the legislation soon, and if he signs it into law, it will take effect on May 1, 2020.

Human composting, or recomposing, is just one eco-friendly post-life plan. Some other options include feeding remains to vultures and burying a body in a head-to-toe suit lined with mushroom spores.

[h/t The Seattle Times]

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Watch: In 1948, Idaho Officials Sent 76 Beavers Parachuting Into Idaho’s Wilderness

A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
yrjö jyske, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When people started building up the area around Idaho’s Payette Lake after World War II, its original residents began interfering with irrigation and agricultural endeavors. They weren’t exactly staging an organized protest—they were just beavers doing what beavers do.

Nevertheless, officials at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game decided their best bet was to find a new home for the long-toothed locals. The surrounding wilderness provided plenty of options, but transportation was another issue entirely. Traversing the undeveloped, mountainous terrain would require both trucks and pack animals, and experts knew from past relocation efforts that beavers weren’t fond of either.

“Beavers cannot stand the direct heat of the sun unless they are in water,” department employee Elmo W. Heter explained in a 1950 report [PDF]. “Sometimes they refuse to eat. Older individuals often become dangerously belligerent ... Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, malodorous pair of live beavers.”

To keep Payette Lake’s beavers healthy and happy during the journey, their human handlers would need to find another method of travel. As Boise State Public Radio reports, that’s when Heter suggested making use of their leftover WWII parachutes.

Two beavers would sit inside a wooden box attached to a parachute, which could be dropped from an airplane between 500 and 800 feet above their new home in the Chamberlain Basin. The cables that fastened the box to the parachute would keep it shut during the flight, but they’d slacken enough for the beavers to open the box upon landing. After testing the operation with weights, Heter and his colleagues enlisted an older beaver named Geronimo for a few live trials.

“Poor fellow!” Heter wrote. “You may be sure that ‘Geronimo’ had a priority reservation on the first ship into the hinterland, and that three young females went with him.”

Once Geronimo had certified the safety of the mission, the team began migrating the whole beaver population. During the fall of 1948, a total of 76 beavers touched down in their new territory. It wasn’t without tragedy, though; one beaver fell to his death after a cable broke on his box. Overall, however, the venture was deemed much safer (and less expensive) than any trip on foot would have been. And when department officials checked in on the beavers a year later, they had already started improving their ecosystem.

“Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies,” Heter wrote. As Idaho Fish and Game’s Steve Liebenthal told Boise State Public Radio, the area is now part of “the largest protected roadless forest” in the continental U.S.

You can watch the Idaho Fish and Game Commission’s full 14-minute documentary about the process below.

[h/t Boise State Public Radio]