Frequently Asked Questions

It is our mission to make the death care process as straightforward and as gentle as possible. Below are some of our most common inquiries.

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Death Care Services

Recompose is open to provide human composting and funeral services. Please call (206) 800-8733.

Planning

Your person’s soil will be ready for pickup between six and ten weeks from when the human composting process begins. Our staff will communicate with families throughout the process regarding when the soil is ready.

The soil created by human composting can be scattered or buried at the location of your choice. In Washington State, you must have the permission of the landowner. Families who choose Recompose have used soil to plant groves of trees or to nourish flower gardens tended by their loved one when they were alive. After the human composting process is complete, families can take home some or all of the entire one cubic yard of soil created (about the volume of a pickup truck bed).

Families also have the option to donate soil to Recompose’s conservation partner, Remember Land, where the soil will be used for restoration efforts at the Bells Mountain forest. In order to preserve the undeveloped integrity of the forest, Bells Mountain does not allow grave markers at this time.

Human composting, also known as natural organic reduction (NOR), is powered by beneficial microbes that occur naturally on our bodies and in the environment. The process begins when our staff lay your loved one’s body in a cradle surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. The cradle is placed into a Recompose vessel and covered with more plant material. The body and plant material remain in the vessel for 30 days. Microbes break everything down on the molecular level, resulting in the formation of a nutrient‑dense soil.

Each body creates one cubic yard of soil amendment, which is removed from the vessel and allowed to cure for two to four weeks. Once complete, the soil can be used to enrich conservation land, forests, or gardens. The soil created returns the nutrients from our bodies to the natural world. It restores forests, sequesters carbon, and nourishes new life.

Yes, people who have died from COVID-19 can choose human composting. The heat created by the human composting process eliminates the COVID-19 virus. If you have a family member who has died of COVID-19, FEMA provides financial assistance for funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020 for deaths related to coronavirus (COVID-19) up to $9,000 per funeral. You can read full information on fema.gov. Recompose is a licensed funeral home and our services qualify for FEMA benefits. Our services team can assist you in compiling the information you will need to apply.

If your family doesn’t want the soil created by human composting, they can choose to donate it to environmental conservation projects. Our current conservation partner is Remember Land, a nonprofit land trust in southern Washington. Remember Land manages a 700-acre forest called Bells Mountain. The soil that is donated to Bells Mountain is used on conservation projects like tree nurseries, erosion repair, and replanting native plants after the removal of invasive species. The nutrients that were once the body return to the earth.

For families that choose to donate soil, we offer the option of receiving a 64-ounce (equal to 8 cups) container to scatter on trees and plants:

Box that is holding soil from human composting process

Soil boxes can be shipped to addresses within the continental United States. Additional soil boxes are available for purchase. Please read our article, How to Consider Your Soil Options, for more information.

For now, Recompose is focusing only on offering composting for humans, not pets.

Pricing

Recompose strives to keep the price for human composting comparable to other death care options.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral with cremation in 2021 in the United States was $6,971, and the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial was $7,848. It is important to note that the median burial cost does not include a plot, headstone, or any other cemetery costs associated with a burial. Those costs can often double the cost of a traditional burial.

We are committed to bringing ecological death care to as many people as possible. This includes providing our services at a subsidized rate to individuals who could not otherwise afford to pay our full price of $7,000. Learn more about the Recompose Community Fund.

Learn what services are included in the cost of human composting here. Find a list of current pricing for all Recompose services in our General Price List.

 

Recompose’s price for human composting does not include a ceremony, flowers, newspaper obituaries, or additional transport for autopsies. You can see a full list of additional items we offer in our General Price List. The GPL is a document the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to have available in the interest of protecting consumers.

Our staff can help you order certified copies of the death certificate via your county’s vital records office at no additional charge. Fees for death certificates vary by county. For example, as of January 2021, King County charges $25 each.

Human Composting

Learn more about the human composting process, its environmental impact, and the soil it creates.

How it Works

Human composting is the gentle transformation of a human body into soil. Recompose places each body into a stainless steel vessel along with wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. Microbes that naturally occur on the plant material and on and in our bodies power the transformation into soil.

Over the next 30 days, everything inside the vessel breaks down thanks to natural decomposition. The soil is then removed from the vessel, screened for non-organic items such as hip implants, tested for safety, and allowed to dry and cure for an additional two to four weeks.

Once the soil is complete after six to eight weeks, families can either take it home for use on trees and plants, or donate it to conservation efforts. Each body creates one cubic yard of soil amendment.

Learn more about the Recompose process here.

The human composting process breaks down bones and teeth through a combination of microbial and mechanical means.

Microbes do the primary work of human composting. By controlling the ratio of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and moisture, human composting creates the perfect environment for microbes and beneficial bacteria to thrive. These microbes are assisted by mechanical steps to help complete the transformation into soil. Recompose staff rotate each Recompose vessel at several points during the process to ensure thorough aeration and decomposition, which helps to break up any remaining bone fragments and teeth. Recompose staff also screen for non-organics such as implants, which are recycled whenever possible. At the end of the composting process, fragments remaining that are larger than one centimeter are processed using the same equipment that is used to process bone in conventional cremation.

Soil is tested for safety and screened before it is returned to families or the environment. The final soil may include small bone fragments, which are safe and will continue to break down and return to the environment over time.

The human composting process takes between six and ten weeks. Each body spends thirty days in a Recompose vessel, then the soil is transferred to a bin to cure and dry for an additional two to six weeks. We test the soil to ensure it is ready to be returned. Our staff will communicate timing throughout the process. Learn more about how our human composting process works.

Human composting eliminates diseases. The human composting process creates heat over 131 degrees Fahrenheit. This heat ensures the soil created is safe and free of harmful pathogens. There are three rare diseases that disqualify a body from undergoing human composting: Ebola, prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and tuberculosis. Monitoring for these diseases is the responsibility of hospitals and medical examiners. For patients who have received radiation seed implants within 30 days of death, the treated organ must be removed before they are eligible for human composting.

During the human composting process, pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs are reduced to well below safe levels as they are decomposed by microorganisms.

During the human composting process, staff screen for non-organics like metal fillings, prostheses, and artificial joints. These items are recycled when possible. Like in cremation, pacemakers are removed before human composting occurs.

Yes, you can donate your organs and choose human composting. Organs will be removed by medical professionals at the time of death. Recompose can then pick up the body from that medical facility.

The process of natural organic reduction destroys most harmful pathogens. There are three rare diseases that disqualify a body from undergoing human composting: Ebola, prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and tuberculosis.

Monitoring for these diseases is the responsibility of hospitals and medical examiners. Patients who have received radiation seed implants within 30 days of death are also not eligible for NOR in most cases.

For patients who have received radiation seed implants within 30 days of death, the treated organ must be removed before they are eligible for human composting.

The soil created by human composting can be mixed with ashes, plants, and other material. In some instances, plants can be placed in the vessel at the start of the human composting process. Our staff can answer questions about specific materials. Learn more about how our human composting process works.

At Recompose, the human composting takes place in a device we call a vessel. It is a steel cylinder, 8 feet long and 4 feet tall. The vessel rests inside of a hexagonal frame. Each body is placed into the vessel on a bed of wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. Over the next 30 days, everything inside the vessel breaks down thanks to natural decomposition. The soil is removed from the vessel and placed into a curing bin, where it is aerated for two to four weeks. Below is a photo of a Recompose vessel and cradle.

picture of human composting vessel and cradle

Human composting is also called natural organic reduction, recomposting, terramation, or recomposition.

Environmental Impact

Human composting is a more environmentally-friendly option than burial or cremation. This is because the process does not use fossil gas like cremation, does not require the casket and cemetery resources of burial, and sequesters carbon as soil is created.

To measure the environmental impact of human composting, expert Dr. Troy Hottle developed a scientific model to compare cremation, conventional burial, green burial, and human composting. The model showed that human composting and green burial perform far better than cremation or conventional burial at reducing carbon. The research showed that between .84 and 1.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide will be saved each time someone chooses human composting.

Human composting saves carbon through a combination of factors. The process uses much less energy than cremation, which uses fossil gas to create heat of over 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

When human composting transforms the organic material of our bodies, carbon is also sequestered in the soil created. Rather than being released as carbon dioxide gas through exhaust during a cremation, the carbon matter contained in each body returns to the earth.

Cremation uses fossil fuels and emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and about 1.6 million people are cremated in the United States each year. Human composting is a greener option cremation because it saves one metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere for every person who chooses it.

Each person who chooses human composting prevents the emissions equivalent of over 40 propane tanks. Conventional burial also creates emissions from the manufacture and transport of headstones, caskets, and grave liners, and requires ongoing upkeep of cemeteries.

Human composting takes place in a closed, reusable vessel while green burial refers to the practice of burying an unembalmed body in a designated green burial cemetery with a simple casket or shroud. Both human composting and green burial encourage natural decomposition.

Human composting is not a type of burial because the body is not placed in the ground. Human composting creates an environment in which beneficial microbes thrive, with a specific moisture content and ratio of carbon and nitrogen materials. The molecular processes power human composting are the same processes that break down a body during green burial. However, these processes typically take much longer in a green burial context. This is partly because not as much oxygen reaches a body that has been buried underground.

Conceptually, both green burial and natural organic reduction return a body to the earth. Both processes are part of a worldwide movement to make death care practices less harmful—and ideally beneficial—to the planet.

Like human composting, alkaline hydrolysis—also called water cremation, resomation, or aquamation—is a process for transforming a body after death. Alkaline hydrolysis takes place in a pressurized vessel filled with water and potassium hydroxide, which transforms the body into a sand-like material.

In contrast, human composting takes place in a closed, reusable vessel. Human composting creates an environment in which beneficial microbes thrive, with a specific moisture content and ratio of carbon and nitrogen materials.

Alkaline hydrolysis has some of the same environmental benefits as human composting. Both processes are part of a worldwide movement to make death care practices less harmful—and ideally beneficial—to the planet.

Soil Information

Human composting creates one cubic yard of soil per body. The process begins with three cubic yards of plant material. Families can either take the soil home once the process is complete, or they can donate some or all of the soil to conservation efforts.

Human composting creates a compost ideal for most plants. Human compost can be used on trees, yards, house plants, and flower gardens, just like any other type of compost (such as compost created by food scraps or garden prunings).

All compost that completes the human composting process is tested by both Recompose and a third-party lab for safety. Additional analysis indicates compost that is good for use on plants. The pH range of Recompose compost is usually between 6.5 and 7, which is ideal for most plants. Electrical conductivity is moderate, indicating the presence of soluble (plant-available) ions. As a fertilizer, the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium-sulfur content is balanced, providing good nutrient content with a good supply of macronutrients.

Respiration test results indicate Recompose compost is at “Very Stable” levels, indicating that most of the “fast pool” of sugars have been used up by microbes and nutrients are stabilized. Nitrate content is high, indicating aerobic status and advanced decomposition. Bioassay does show relative immaturity, so we recommend use at lower concentration around roots of young plants.

Human composting creates one cubic yard of soil per body. Recompose offers families the option to take the soil home to use on trees and plants, or the option to donate some or all of the soil to a conservation partner. Our current conservation partner is the nonprofit organization, Remember Land. They manage a 700-acre forest in southern Washington called Bells Mountain. The soil that is donated to Bells Mountain is used on conservation projects like tree nurseries, erosion repair, and replanting native plants after the removal of invasive species. The nutrients that were once the body return to the earth.

The soil created by human composting is valuable material that can be used to nourish trees and plants. It can be used in yards, flower gardens, trees, house plants, and in natural environments. Its pH of 6.6 is ideal for most plants. It has a balanced nutrient content with a good supply of macronutrients.

Recompose customers have used their person’s soil to create groves of trees, nourish rose gardens tended by their person while they were alive, or scattered in a favorite natural area. In Washington, the law for scattering human composting soil is the same for cremated remains: You must have permission of the land owner in order to use the soil from human composting on private land. It is also legal to scatter in navigable waterways.

If you have any questions about what you can do with your soil, our staff is happy to help.

Legal Process

In the United States, human composting is legal in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, and California. Recompose is currently open in Washington State, and plans to open in Colorado in 2023, followed by California in 2027. We are also partnering with lawmakers to legalize human composting in more states. You can learn more about our efforts on our Public Policy page.

Recompose’s mission is to bring human composting everywhere there are people who want it. We’ll announce all future expansions via our newsletter.

In the U.S., the laws governing human remains vary greatly from state to state, as do the processes for passing new laws. Because of this, we don’t have an easy template for how to pass human composting laws in new states. Talking to friends and family about your end-of-life wishes and why Recompose is meaningful for you is a great way to start building interest and demand in your area.

As Recompose expands, the number of people who are interested in our service is a big factor in choosing which states we pursue next. You can read more about this on our Public Policy page.

Precompose

Information about choosing human composting for your future death care

Planning

If you expect a death soon, please call us at (206) 800-8733. Precompose is designed primarily for planning in advance when a death is not expected for many years.

Yes, you can donate your organs and choose human composting. Donated organs will be removed by medical professionals at the time of death. Once removal is complete, Recompose can pick up your body from the medical facility.

In most instances, body donation and human composting are not compatible. Bodies donated to medical schools and research projects are usually embalmed to extend the time during which they can be used. Bodies that are embalmed cannot undergo human composting.

You can choose Recompose for human composting from any state. You can contact our staff at (206) 800-8733 and we can help you arrange for transport.

Most customers that come to us from another state work with a funeral home in their area to arrange for transport. This funeral home will pick up a body at the place of death and arrange for transport to Recompose. When you contact a funeral home, we suggest starting the conversation by saying something like, “I am looking to have my body transported to the Seattle area. I have chosen a funeral home called Recompose to handle my death care services. Can you help me make arrangements?” Families can also transport their person to Recompose in their personal vehicle with the correct permits. If you are interested in this option, please contact us and we’re happy to help.

Bodies that come to Recompose must not be embalmed. While most funeral homes are experienced with transporting bodies, they may not yet have heard of human composting or have experience with this kind of transport. If you have any questions or need help finding a transporting funeral home, Recompose staff can help you at (206) 800-8733.

Our article, How to Arrange for Transport to Recompose, also has information to help you.

The cost varies by funeral home and region. For example, transport from California to Seattle starts at about $3,000. For a lower cost option, you can also ask your friends and family to transport your body themselves.

You can read full details on transport options in our article on How to Arrange for Transport to Recompose. You will also be able to transfer your Precompose membership to future Recompose locations.

While the price for Recompose services will not increase for you as long as you pay consistently towards your balance, the price for transport outside the included counties will increase over time. This is to accommodate increases in gas and labor costs. For this reason, while we allow a prepayment for transportation, we do not lock in the price for transportation. If you live outside King, Pierce, or Snohomish counties, we recommend setting aside the current transport price plus an additional buffer for potential future increases. Please contact our team if you would like to prepay your transportation costs. Recompose will bill your estate for the then-current transport price after your body has been transported to Recompose. You can see the current transport pricing in our General Price List.

Yes, you can receive a 100% refund within the first 30 days of joining Precompose. After 90 days, you can receive a 90% refund of the money you’ve paid into Precompose at any time. The remaining 10% is kept by Recompose for our operating costs.

Yes, our staff can help you sign up via phone or by mail. You can call (206) 800-8733 or email us at [email protected] to schedule time to sign up via phone or to request a mail-in sign up packet.

Within Washington State: At the time of your death, your loved ones can call us at (206) 800-8733 and we will arrange to take your body into our care.

Outside Washington state: At the time of your death, your loved ones should contact the local funeral home you have chosen to send your body to Recompose. The chosen local funeral home will then contact Recompose to coordinate the arrival of your body to our facility. After your body arrives at Recompose, we will contact your designated agent or next-of-kin to continue arrangements.

The most important things you can do to make sure everything goes smoothly when you die are complete your Precompose forms and ensure that your agent knows where to find them, and what to do when you die. Find more information and a full list of Precompose forms here.

Forms

You should automatically receive an email containing completed copies of your documents. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected]

You can change information on any Precompose form by submitting a new version of the form. We will consider your most recent version of the form to be your most up-to-date information. You can access all forms here.

Our system, Zoho, sends email reminders for any documents it considers “not completed.” Sometimes, if you click through to complete the document then click away, the Zoho system will create two different documents. This means that even if you completed a document once, Zoho may have created a few extra versions of the document and that’s what it’s sending you reminders about.

If you are getting document reminders in error, send us a note at [email protected] and our staff will delete the incomplete versions. You will get a “recall” email notification for the deleted incomplete documents.

Recompose uses the phrase “friends and family” to refer to the people who matter to you. Chosen friends and family can include non-biological kinship bonds, whether legally recognized or not.

Your “agent” is the person who is legally allowed to make decisions for your death care. They do not have to be a blood relation. If you do not designate an agent, the position of agent will automatically go to your legal next-of-kin. This is usually a spouse or registered domestic partner, a child or children, a parent or parents, or sibling or siblings, in that order. You can learn more in the How to Designate an Agent article.

Legal

While you can provide payment for someone, they need to sign their own documents or you need to have very specific Power of Attorney saying that you can sign the documents for them.

Washington State law requires Recompose to hold 90% of the money from the purchase of Precompose in a trust account. This money will be invested in low-risk investments and cannot ever be used in Recompose’s operations.

The trust account where we hold your money will earn “accruals,” meaning interest, dividends, and/or an increase in value of stock or bonds or other investments. Because Recompose intends to use low-risk investments on trust funds, we expect these accruals to be very modest. You will be entitled to accruals on the trust if the balance exceeds the price of human composting at the time the service is performed. If the amount you have paid, plus the accruals, exceeds our then-current cost, your estate will be refunded any excess funds. Please note this instance is unlikely. The Recompose trust, like any funerary trust in Washington, is heavily regulated, and Washington State will receive yearly reports on the holdings and any accruals. They will not receive reports on individual accounts, so your individual account remains private to you.

While your Precompose membership will remain valid, you will need to do additional preplanning with a local funeral home who will help coordinate shipping your body to the nearest Recompose location. You will need to update the forms you have on file with us. The local funeral home you choose will have their own costs for this service. You can instead choose to cancel your Precompose membership if you do not wish to plan with a local funeral home in your new state.

Yes, you can cancel your plan at any time. If you cancel within 30 days of joining, you will receive a 100% refund. After 30 days, you will receive a 90% refund of the money you’ve paid into Precompose. The remaining 10% is kept by Recompose for our operating costs. Please contact Precompose at [email protected] or (206) 800-8733.

If Recompose is not available at the time of your death, you or your designated agent will receive a 90% refund either at the time of death or at the time of Recompose’s closing. The remaining 10% is retained for operational costs.

Member Support

Yes, our team is happy to answer questions over the phone. Our phone number is (206) 800-8733. Our office hours are 10am to 4pm PT on weekdays. Please note we have a small team, so you may need to leave a message and we will call you back within 2-3 business days.

We’re so sorry to hear you are having tech issues. We are working constantly to improve your experience. Thank you for your patience as we make improvements. You can email us at [email protected] regarding your tech issue and we will work to resolve it. We find that our system works best on a desktop or laptop device rather than a tablet or phone. On weekdays, you can also give us a call at (206) 800-8733.

You have two options for changing your credit card information:

  • You can call us at (206) 800-8733 and we will change it for you
  • You’ll receive a link to update your card if it has been declined

There is no fee for late payments due to card changes or any other payment changes.

At this time, no. We are working on being able to accept additional payments. However, you may change your payment level as often as every six months. If you want to pay off the rest of your balance in a one-time payment, we are happy to accommodate that request. Please contact us at [email protected] or (206) 800-8733.

Your Precompose membership will remain valid wherever you move but your transportation cost to Recompose may be affected, depending on where you move.

Please email [email protected] with your new address.

If you are moving from a state with a Recompose facility to a state without a Recompose facility
You will also need to submit a new Transport Form. You will also need to do additional planning with a local funeral home who will help coordinate shipping your body to the closest Recompose facility. The local funeral home you choose will have their own costs for this service. If you do not wish to plan with a local funeral home in your new state, you can choose to cancel your Precompose membership.

If you need help or have any questions, please contact the Precompose Team at [email protected] or (206) 800-TREE.

Pricing

When you sign up for Precompose, we guarantee the cost of your Recompose services at the time of your purchase as long as you make payments consistently before your death, even if the price has since gone up.

The Recompose price includes transport from within King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. We also offer transport to our location from counties within Washington State for the fees listed on our current General Price List (GPL). Please note that the prices for transport from outside this range will increase over time to accommodate for increasing labor and gas prices.

Yes. If you prefer to pay by check, full payment is required. Please mail your check to: Recompose, 4 S. Idaho Street, Seattle, WA 98134. Please contact Precompose at [email protected] or (206) 800-8733 if you have questions about how to pay by check.

Funeral services are not included in the price of Precompose. However, our Services Team can help coordinate a funeral service and we offer two options for friends and family to be in community together:

  • Cedar is a small private room that available for those who wish to perform hands-on care for their person. We offer this room to encourage community-led death care.
  • The Gathering Space offers friends and family members an opportunity to participate in sending their person on to the next stage of transformation.

Both of these rooms may be rented for an hourly rate, our Services team will coordinate arrangements as part of this fee. Please see our General Price List for services and pricing details.

Recompose

Please see detailed information about why this process is needed and the science behind its safety and efficacy.

Our Facilities

Recompose is located in Seattle, Washington. We plan to open in Colorado in 2023 and California in 2027. Our intention is to continue opening more locations as legislation changes across the country.

Our Seattle location offers a space for friends and family to gather and contains the vessels where bodies are transformed into soil. Learn more.

Yes. We offer guided, small group tours led by Recompose staff. During the 45-minute tour, guests will be led through our front of house rooms including Cedar, the Gathering Space, and a portion of our Greenhouse, where you’ll see an array of vessels and learn more about how the process works. Sign up for a tour.

See photos and learn more about our Seattle location.

Yes, Recompose is a licensed funeral home. Our staff includes funeral directors and we provide transport, ceremonies, and funeral arrangements as well as human composting.

Our Seattle location is located at 4 S. Idaho Street in SODO’s Industrial District. We are open by appointment only.  Get directions to Recompose.

If you are interested in touring Recompose, we offer guided, small group tours led by Recompose staff. During the 45-minute tour, guests will be led through our front of house rooms including Cedar, the Gathering Space, and a portion of our Greenhouse, where you’ll see an array of vessels and learn more about how the process works. Sign up for a tour here.

See photos and learn more about our Seattle location.

Our Company

Thank you for your interest in supporting Recompose. Unfortunately, because Recompose is subject to employment laws, we are not eligible to take on volunteers or unpaid interns. We are grateful for your offer and are sorry to have to decline. There are a lot of great organizations doing similar work who can take volunteers, we suggest seeking out advocacy groups around ecological death care or hospice volunteer programs in your area. You can also check out our Jobs page or sign up for our newsletter to hear about potential future paid positions.

Thank you for your interest in Recompose. We have a small team and very limited availability for interviews. You are welcome to use the information on this website for your article with proper citation. If you can’t find the information you need or need images for your article, you can email [email protected] Please note we do not participate in student, documentary, television, or film projects at this time.

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About Recompose

Recompose is a licensed, full-service, green funeral home in Seattle offering human composting. As the first human composting facility in the world, we are a trusted leader in ecological death care and Seattle’s only human composting provider.

Recompose Seattle
4 S Idaho St, Seattle, WA 98134

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Land Acknowledgement
Recompose acknowledges we make our lives and livelihoods on the lands of the Coast Salish People, specifically the Duwamish People. We honor with gratitude the Duwamish People past and present, the land itself, and the Duwamish Tribe. Colonization is an active, persistent process. Indigenous communities continue to be resilient in protecting their ecological and cultural lifeways and deathways despite ongoing oppression. Recompose respects, shares, and supports this commitment to climate healing and environmental justice. Join Recompose in contributing to Real Rent Duwamish.