The technology of converting human bodies into compost has been tested

The technology of converting human bodies into compost has been tested
The technology of converting human bodies into compost has been tested

Composting the bodies of deceased people can be an environmentally friendly alternative to burial or cremation. This method is already ready to be applied in practice in the state of Washington (USA).

An excellent nutritional fertilizer is obtained from human bodies. The researchers came to this conclusion during experiments with six dead bodies, which were covered with sawdust and other organic materials during decomposition.

The results of the study, presented on February 16, 2020 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, indicate that composting, also called natural organic recovery, is an excellent and inexpensive way to dispose of carcasses.

Disposal of dead human bodies can soon become a real environmental problem. Embalming the dead involves the use of large amounts of toxic fluids, and cremation emits a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But composting, in which microbes decompose bodies, turning them into nutrient soil, is a great option, says Jennifer Debrune, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, who was not involved in the study.

In 2019, Washington became the first state to legalize natural organic reduction, or composting, as a replacement for traditional disposal methods. Seattle-based Recompose will soon begin accepting bodies for composting.

Soil scientist Lynn Carpenter-Boggs of Washington State University at Pullman described an experiment in which six bodies were placed in containers of plant material that were constantly rotated to create optimal conditions for decomposition. After about four to seven weeks, only skeletons were left of the bodies. Each body produced between 1.15 and 1.53 cubic meters of soil-like material containing bones.

Commercial recycling methods are likely to involve more thorough processing of bones, said Recompose scientific advisor Carpenter-Boggs. Her analyzes also showed that the resulting soil met all safety standards set by the US EPA and was free of heavy metals.

Animal carcasses have long been used for compost production. “The idea of applying the composting method to people makes sense. The heat generated by the microbes destroys the dangerous pathogens. This is a kind of natural sterilization. Once, while composting cattle carcasses, “the pile got so hot that the sawdust and chips were actually burnt,” says Jennifer Debrune.

The only survivors of composting are prions - misfolded proteins that can cause disease. This means composting “will not be suitable for people who have been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease during their lifetime,” says Carpenter-Boggs.

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