For centuries, dead bodies have been wrapped in shrouds, placed inside coffins, buried below ground, or cremated. Soon, residents of Washington state will have another option: To turn a loved ones' remains into composted soil for use in the garden.
The new rule , which allows for "the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains into soil" will go into effect in May , the first of its kind in the US. The news is exciting for a startup called Recompose, which aims to provide consumers with a body-composing service as an alternative to cremation by far the most popular death ritual practiced in Washington today.
In order to accelerate the natural decomposition process, Recompose plans to put corpses into steel vessels, where they'll stay for a month. During that time, microbes from the body naturally heat up to between and degrees Fahrenheit. Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of Recompose, said she's aiming to open the first "natural organic reduction" shop of its kind in Seattle next year. Turning bodies into compost is better for the Earth than cremation: Recompose estimates that one metric ton of CO2 is saved for every person who opts to compost a body instead of burning it.
That's roughly equivalent to taking a gas-powered car off the road for about three months.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who's running for president with a progressive environmental platform, signed the bill into law on Tuesday. Spade said she hopes to "host" around bodies annually at Recompose's next-generation funeral home , starting with 20 or 25 bodies at a time. An artist's vision of the future recompose facility in Seattle, complete with composting vessels on the wall.
7 Creepy Things A Dead Body Can Do, According To Science
MOLT Studios. Human composting is remarkably straightforward. After a person dies, our immune system stops working, and decay begins near-immediately. Read More: Why you never really die: A microbiologist explains all the ways the body lives on, and why we don't decay until we're dead. When people get buried in the ground, bodies can take months or even years to fully decompose, depending on the environment. So Recompose's technology is designed to speed up this process.
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Katrina Spade Craig Willse. As long as we're providing the right mix of carbon and nitrogen via those materials and providing enough oxygen to the vessel, the microbes start breaking down the body right away. The company's method has already been tested in trials at Washington State University, where six human bodies were recently composed. The only people who are ineligible for this human composting are those with rare neurodegenerative prion diseases Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is one example , and those who die of highly contagious illnesses like Ebola.
Recompose says any artificial limbs, hips, pacemakers and other implants are all tossed out before the composting or, ideally, recycled.
Demand Up, Donations Down
Recompose is still raising funds for its first composting site. The finished product from Recompose looks like this. WSU Communications. Spade is part of a growing group of people advocating for greener ways to deal with dead bodies.
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