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'Composting grandpa' bill moves through Arizona Legislature

State lawmakers may give Arizonans an alternative to cremation and burial when their loved ones pass away. 

Rep. Laurin Hendrix’s bill would legalize a process called natural organic reduction, or human composting. It uses microbes to break down the body over the course of several weeks into a nutrient dense soil that can be used to plant trees or flowers.

Natural organic reduction is pitched as an eco-friendly alternative to other burial methods. Washington was the first state to legalize the process in 2019, and six other states have followed suit, including California and New York. 

“You can imagine in the spring time when the flowers bloom, there is a tremendous sort of spiritual connection for these grieving family members,” said lobbyist Jake Hinman, who represented a group pushing for passage of the bill.

The bill received unanimous approval in the House Regulatory Affairs Committee, where Rep. Corey McGarr (R-Marana) called it the Circle of Life bill, referencing a popular song from the Disney animated film "The Lion King."

Hendrix, a Gilbert Republican, said he’s heard it referred to by a different name.

“I think it was composting grandpa was the … something to that effect at the bottom of the screen,” Hendrix said, referring to a television interview he gave about the bill. 

Sen. T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) is sponsoring a mirror bill that will go before an Arizona Senate committee next week. 

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.