On May 21, 2019 Governor Inslee signed SB 5001 Concerning Human Remains into law, legalizing alkaline hydrolysis (aquamation) and "natural organic reduction" (recomposition). Next, rules and regulations will be written. Aquamation and recomposition will be available in May 2020. We will let you know as soon as there are service providers and pricing available for these options.
The passage of this bill was a grassroots effort. Thank you for being a proactive community member and contacting your Representatives in support of this bill!
Updated May 23, 2019.
People's Memorial advocates for consumer protection and choice for funeral and related end of life issues. Our advocacy priorities are:
- Pricing transparency
- Protection from predatory sales tactics
- Increasing consumer choices
PMA is a founding member of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) to function as a unifying force for consumer advocacy at the federal level.
77.3% of Washingtonians choose cremation compared to the national average of 51.6% (2017 Cremation Association of North America). Cremation is an energy-intensive process that releases carbon dioxide, mercury, and particulates into the atmosphere. Land space for burial in metropolitan areas is scarce, and the use of embalming chemicals and rare woods for caskets is not sustainable. We need to consider our environmental impact.
Alkaline hydrolysis or "Aquamation" is a gentle process that uses water, temperature, pressure, and alkalinity (potassium hydroxide) to reduce the body to bones, which are then processed into ashes and returned to the family in an urn. Cremation does the same reduction using flame, however Aquamation uses 1/8th of the energy.
Aquamation is legal in 16 other states, including Oregon, California, and Colorado, and is currently legal for our pets in Washington. Resting Waters Aquamation is a provider for pets. PMA Members receive 15% off all services for their pets at Resting Waters Aquamation: Seattle's Pet Funeral Home.
Natural Organic Reduction
Natural organic reduction or "recomposition" is a process developed by Katrina Spade, Founder and CEO of Recompose, to gently convert human remains to soil. It is a contained, accelerated process that provides us with the opportunity to nourish new life after we die. It uses significantly less energy than cremation and saves over one metric ton of carbon dioxide per person. The flagship Seattle Recompose facility will provide an intimate place for family and friends to grieve the loss of their loved one and process death. Read the article from USA Today.
Why do we need greener choices?
With such a high preference for cremation, it naturally seems that if a greener form of cremation is available, it should be a legal option for Washington residents. Aquamation and Recomposition are more environmentally friendly alternatives to flame cremation. Both processes are non-combustive, meaning, unlike in flame cremation, mercury is not vaporized.
Typically during the flame cremation process, CO2, greenhouse gases, and carcinogenic toxins are among the 219 known emissions released. It also consumes 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas and releases about 3 grams of mercury. In the last 5 years alone, Washington State has seen 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas burned and 1,400 pounds of mercury vaporized.
Additionally, land space for burial in Seattle and other major cities is scarce. Recomposition happens inside of a vessel, which is modular and re-usable.
What is the environmental impact?
- Reduces the use of fossil fuels
- Minimizes waste and avoids polluting groundwater with embalming fluid
- Prevents emissions of CO2 from the manufacturing of caskets, headstones, and grave liners
- Eliminates carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (NOX), and mercury emissions
- Eliminates air emissions (vastly improves air and water quality)
- Reduces carbon output by 75% (versus flame)
- Uses 1/8 the amount of energy (versus flame)
How does this benefit consumers?
- Freedom of choice
- Green alternative
- Dignified process
How does this benefit the funeral and cemetery profession?
- No change in funeral service
- No mandated use
- No strict zoning law
- Revenue generator
- Wave of the future
PMA and a team of death care providers worked together to pass SB 5001 Concerning Human Remains. This bill legalizes two additional disposition options, alkaline hydrolysis, or "aquamation", and natural organic reduction, or "recomposition" (2019).
PMA worked side-by-side with the funeral industry to bring about passage of Designated Agent legislation, once again benefiting consumers (2011).
Won the right for Washington's religious and cultural minorities to have up to 24 hours to perform religious or cultural rituals with an unembalmed, unrefrigerated body (2007).
Protected the rights of Washington families to care for their own dead (2005).
PMA played a key role in changing Washington law to place the funeral industry under the state’s Consumer Protection Act (2002) and helped pass another law legalizing the scattering of ashes of the deceased.
The FCA was instrumental in getting the Federal Trade Commission to adopt a set of standards for funeral home pricing called The Funeral Rule (1984). PMA's biennial Funeral Price Survey was a key component of this successful effort. The Funeral Rule standards were revolutionary in enabling consumers to get accurate price information from funeral homes. PMA and the FCA are now working to update the Funeral Rule to the 21st Century, by requiring funeral homes to post their pricing on their websites.