Better than burial and cremation – composting

After having spent years researching how to compost livestock, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, received a call asking if similar techniques could be applied to humans.

Guest: Lynne Carpenter Boggs (second from left), Professor of Sustainable and Organic Agriculture at Washington State University.

Here she speaks with Phillip Adams on Late Night Live, to explain her world-first study and how composting humans as an eco-friendly alternative to burial and cremation is slowly becoming legalised across the United States.

Broadcast: Thursday 11 Nov 2021, Duration: 20min 17sec

Composting deceased persons, or natural organic reduction, provides another sustainable alternative to cremation and burial. The concept got its start from the widespread practice of composting dead livestock.

“It’s actually a fairly common practice on livestock farms,” Carpenter-Boggs said. Carpenter-Boggs is a soil scientist at Washington State University in Pullman and a research adviser for the human composting company Recompose.

“Composting is an accepted practice and actually, in many areas, a promoted practice by departments of agriculture and departments of health for the disposal of livestock mortality.” She said the team first composted livestock materials and then fine-tuned the processes for human remains.

“It’s highly effective, but it’s taken some thought and some redesign to make this a process that would be allowable and acceptable for human use,” she added.

In the pilot study, the researchers composted six donated research subjects using natural plant material as a starter. After 4–7 weeks, each body turned 2–3 cubic yards of starter into 1.5–2 cubic yards of compost and bones. Carpenter-Boggs said that as with cremation, a commercial composting facility would likely process the material further to deal with the skeletal remains.

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