Death is one of the things that can never be avoided. But, with the recent state of the environment, there is concern over how much pollution deaths of human beings cause. Whether it’s cremation or burying, almost every method has an environmental downside.
However, there is a new method of ensuring that you can give back to the planet even in death. That involves encasing the body in specially prepared bacteria and soil, so 100% of it will become fertile composted mulch. Basically, human remains transform into rich soil where new life can sprout – the circle of life as it was meant to be.
The First Facility Is Finally Up And Running
This idea is not exactly old. In fact, it is the way that nature originally meant for human remains to be dealt with. But, with our intelligence and society, we have gradually strayed from it. However, it is staging a return, and it is completely legal too.
After ten years’ worth of fundraising and planning, as well as successfully changing the law in the State of Washington, one facility has been open for about a year now. It is called Recompose and it is a “composting funeral home”.
In December 2020, the facility had received its first remains. Its appearance is similar to a humongous beehive inside a warehouse. Bodies are kept and treated inside each hexagon-shaped pod. These pods are long tubes that are filled with straw, wood, chips, and alfalfa. After a body is placed inside, workers will add a tiny bit of bacteria that specifically digests organic material. Then, after some days, the remains will be converted into a single pod’s worth of nutrient-rich mulch.
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The process of composting is called “natural organic reduction”. It takes approximately one month and $5000 for the entire service. After the compositing is complete, families can choose to put the remains to rest in a spot of their choice. Or, Recompose can deliver them to the conservation forest in Bells Mountain in southern Washington.
The Facility Had To Face Surprising Legal Issues
Even though many funeral homes proclaim “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, it was illegal to dispose of a body by composting it. However, Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, took up the cause to change it.
In 2018, Recompose sponsored Washington State University to study the effectiveness and safety of composting remains. The study took place over 5 months and looked at 6 bodies being composted. The study revealed that the standards set by the EPA for Washington state composting facilities were being met. Additionally, toxins such as lead and arsenic were found to be lower than the limits set by the EPA for the resulting substance.
This was enough to convince Washington State to become the first US state to make human composting legal. The new law has been in effect since May 2020. Specifically, it allows “contained, accelerated conversion of human remains into the soil.”
Apart from Recompose, there are two other facilities in Washington that can carry out natural organic reduction. These are Return Home, and Herland Forest natural burial cemetery. Both of them have been fully operational for quite a while.
Recompose claims that one body composted instead of being cremated means 1 metric ton of CO2 saved. That is about the same amount emitted by a gas-run vehicle in approximately 3 months. A report by Earther states that the footprint involved in composting is much less than that of embalming, or cremation.