New service could see you help the environment when you die

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·2-min read

A burial service is offering to turn human remains into compost.

Recompose, a company which is based out of the US state of Washington, offers people the chance to become soil after they die.

It is one of two licensed facilities in Washington that started accepting bodies for human compost in December. Another will commence operations this year.

Recompose founder and CEO Katrina Spade told AFP it was “an alternative to embalming and burial or cremation”, which was “natural” and “safe”.

“The idea of returning to nature so directly and being folded back into the cycle of life and death is actually pretty beautiful,” she said.

A vessel used to breakdown human remains by Recompose is pictured.
A Recompose vessel which is used to break the body down along with natural materials. Source: Instagram/ Recompose

Paulie Bontrager, an environmentalist from West Virginia who died from a lung infection, is one of a few who have already undergone the process.

Her daughter, Charlotte, told The Seattle Times earlier this month she and her mum had discussed the process with her saying: “I want to go that way.”

“My mom was a very humble, loving person and would not want any kind of spotlight,” Charlotte told the paper.

“But she’d be thrilled to know she was among this first group of pioneers.”

The process became legal in Washington and California last year.

A man wearing gardening gloves holds out his hands full of compost from his compost bin.
Once the body breaks down completely, which takes about 30 days, it's safe to be used in gardens. Source: Getty Images, file

How it works

Recompose places human remains in a vessel with natural materials such as wood chips, alfalfa and straw.

The remains are left to break down for 30 days and once the process is completed the matter can be used in gardens.

It costs about AU$7200.

The company explained cremation burns fossil fuels and emits carbon dioxide. The creation of headstones also leads to emissions along with the upkeep of cemeteries if lawnmowers are taken into consideration.

“Contrast this to using microbial activity to turn a body into nutrient-rich soil and then giving that soil to a forest,” Recompose said.

“In addition to avoiding emissions, Recompose sequesters some of the carbon in that soil. Instead of being released as carbon dioxide gas during a cremation, the carbon matter contained in the body returns to the earth.

“In the end, Recompose saves over a metric ton of carbon dioxide per body.”

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