Founder & CEO, Recompose
There has been a big win for alternative death care in the US in recent weeks, with human composting poised to become available. A bill was passed in the Washington State House of Representatives to legalise two sustainable death care options, alkaline hydrolysis and “natural organic reduction” (also known as “recomposition”). Once the bill receives the sign off from the Governor, Washington will become the first US state to allow human remains to be reduced to soil through controlled composting.
While it took a wide ranging effort from people willing to testify, religious leaders writing letters of support, political advocates and lobbyists, and everyday people who actively made their wishes known to their legislators, the main push came largely from Recompose.
This human-composting Public Benefit Company is headed up by Katrina Spade who has long championed a reconnection with death, and encouraged meaningful participation by everyone in this natural part of life. Through Recompose she has developed a new model of death care that facilitates a deeper connection with nature and invites a more conscious relationship with death. The model also includes a patent-pending system for body disposal that has been developed over years of research to transform bodies into soil.
Natural organic reduction is defined as the “contained, accelerated conversion of human remains into soil” – a process that takes about 30 days and results in soil that can be collected for use by loved ones. With over 7000 people on the Recompose mailing list, there is much interest in an ecologically friendly and productive alternative to cremation or burial. Using one eighth of the energy of cremation, there is a potential savings of 1.4 metric tons of carbon for every person choosing this method.
Reconnection to the basic human act of caring for a loved one’s body is an important part of the vision that Recompose has for its services, and families are encouraged to participate in the care and preparation of the body (alongside staff).
For further information about the approach read this 2018 Endwell interview with Katrina Spade on Medium or watch Recompose team member, Caitlin Doughty, talk about the ‘burial practice that nourishes the planet‘ in a 2016 TED talk.