Human Composting: The Eco-Friendly Burial

This burial method gives the dead new life. 💀🔜🌳

Will your body be composted after death?

Being composted after death will soon be possible in the U.S. Washington is the first state to authorize “human composting.” Katrina Spade's company developed the ecological method and shows us how it works:

“The beneficial bacteria and microbes break up the proteins and carbon to create a new material, a nutrient-rich soil. That soil can then be used to nourish life again. You could become a lemon tree, for example. The body is covered with wood chips, straw, and alfalfa to naturally accelerate decomposition. Bacteria release enzymes that decompose the tissues and carbon-and nitrogen-heavy molecules bind together. After about 30 days, the body is transformed into 1 cubic meter of “human compost” — about two wheelbarrows worth of soil. The family of the deceased can take the soil home to plant a tree made from human composition.”

The law, which takes effect May 1, 2020, recognizes “natural organic reduction” and alkaline hydrolysis (sometimes called “liquid cremation”) as suitable means of disposition for human bodies. Until now, Washington code had permitted only burial and cremation. The bill had passed both legislative chambers with ample, bipartisan majorities: 80-16 in the House and 38-11 in the Senate.

This paves the way for Recompose, a mission to build the first urban “organic reduction” funeral home in the country through science. Washington already has several ecological “green cemeteries,” such as White Eagle Memorial Preserve in Klickitat County, where people can be buried without embalming, caskets or headstones. The Recompose model is more like an urban crematorium (bodies go in, remains come out), but using the denser, less carbon-intensive means of “organic reduction,” or composting.

Designer Katrina Spade began the endeavor as a nonprofit, called the Urban Death Project, back in 2014. Over the years, Spade has assembled a board of volunteer advisers, including scientists, attorneys and death-care professionals, then converted it to an economic small-business model called Recompose.