An array of hexagonal vessels at Recompose's first human composting facility

4 February 2021 

First composting facility opens to transform human remains into soil

Last week, Recompose announced that they had finally started operations, after years of working to make composting a legal method of handling the remains of a deceased human. The company's first facility is located in Kent, Washington and has ten vessels for natural organic reduction (NOR), also known as human composting.

During the 'laying in', the body is laid in a cradle surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa and straw. The cradle is then placed in a vessel and covered with more plant material, and is left there for 30 days. Microbes — present in our own bodies and the environment – and oxygen combine to break down everything, leaving a rich material, much like topsoil purchased for use in a garden. Each body creates one cubic yard of soil amendment.

Soil created by Recompose can be donated to Bells Mountain, a legally protected nature conservation project, or be used by the deceased's friends or family in their own gardens. Either way, the body's molecules are returned to the natural world. Those using Precompose, a prepayment program, will pay USD 5,500 for the process.

Recompose estimates that between 0.84 and 1.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide are saved each time organic reduction is chosen over cremation or conventional burial. Rather than being released as carbon dioxide gas through exhaust during a cremation, the carbon matter contained in each body returns to the earth. Natural organic reduction became legal in Washington state in May 2020, and bills aimed at legalizing human composting are currently being considered in California, Colorado and Oregon.

A gentle and ecological approach to death care that doesn't require land for burial plots? If there's such a thing as a better future for the end of life, this could be it.

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