An artist vision of a future composting facility This is the vision – in an indoor garden, a honeycomb structure lines the walls, and inside each cell, a human body composts. When it’s done, loved ones take home a pot of soil, not an urn of ash. A person’s final resting place could be the foundations of a flowerbed or could feed the roots of a tree. This is what Washington state is preparing to legalise. If the bill passes, the western state would be the first in the nation to allow human composting as a burial option. Here’s what it means to choose a compost burial – and why a growing group of Americans are eschewing convention for a new way to rest in peace. Lying in the open, a human body can take months to return to earth, says forensic anthropologist Daniel Wescott. First, the skin "slips" and blisters. It turns blacks and greys and greens. It bloats. In drier climes, it can mummify for years; in wetter ones, a face becomes a skull in weeks. Prof Wescott of Texas State University studies the decomposition of human bodies at the largest forensic research centre in the country. […]

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