top of page

A Matter of Perspective

by Karin L. Nauber

This reflection is one of those things that will either make you go “hmmmm” or will make you shout for joy that the ultimate in recycling has finally come to pass.

There is a new “recycling” facility in Seattle, Washington that is expected to be open for operation in the early spring of 2021. It is called Recompose and it is being touted as the world’s first human composting facility.

Yes, you read that correctly.

It’s not a new idea, but it does appear to be the first “official” facility for composting humans.

Their website home page states, “Our service—recomposition —gently converts human remains into soil, so that we can nourish new life after we die.”

According to an article about this, the facility is “designed to reconnect human death rituals with nature and to offer a more sustainable alternative to conventional burial options.”

Recompose is offering a “natural organic reduction” which will “convert human remains into soil in about 30 days, helping nourish new life after death.”

Washington state passed a bill this past May that allows “natural organic reduction” as an alternative to cremation or burial. The law will go into effect May 1, 2020.

The article states that the deceased will be placed in a “vessel and covered with wood chips.”

So what is the benefit? Well, for one, there is no waste, no pollution of groundwater with embalming fluid and prevention of “the emissions of CO2 from cremation and from the manufacturing of caskets, headstones and grave liners,” according to the facility’s website.

All that “remains” is fully usable soil.

So how much soil is created from a human being? It probably depends on the size, but Recompose states, “Our process creates about a cubic yard of soil per person, which is a lot! Friends and family are welcome to take some (or all) home to grow a tree or garden. Any remaining soil will go to nourish conservation land in the Puget Sound region.”

They seem to have reasonable prices, too. If you live in the Seattle area, that is.

“We are tentatively aiming for a price of $5500 for the Recompose service. For context, a green burial in Washington is around $6000, a cremation can range from $1000-$7000, and a conventional burial is $8000+.”

If you are not from the Seattle area, you could transport the body yourself to their facility, but keep in mind that there could be necessary permits for this.

But, you may be asking, what about the bones and teeth?

“Everything—including bones and teeth—is transformed. That’s because our system creates the perfect environment for thermophilic (i.e. heat-loving) microbes and beneficial bacteria to break everything down quite quickly. By controlling the ratio of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and moisture, our system creates the perfect environment for these creatures to thrive. We also mix the material at several points during the process to ensure thorough decomposition.

“At the end of the 30 days, we screen for non-organics and make sure the resultant soil is finished. The material we give back to families is much like the topsoil you’d buy at your local nursery. At the end of our process, all that remains is soft, beautiful soil.”

It kind of gives a new meaning to the phrase from “ashes to ashes and from dust to dust.”

This isn’t a bad idea, I am just not sure it is something I am ready for. At this time, I “remain” undecided.



bottom of page