Our Model

Recompose uses a process called natural organic reduction to gently transform human remains into soil. This soil can then be used to regenerate the earth that supports us our whole lives.

arrangement of dried woodchips, leaves and dirt

Environmental Impact

Recompose utilizes the principles of nature to return bodies to the land, sequestering carbon and improving the health of our natural surroundings.

wood chips, shavings and leaves

Healing the Climate

For every person who chooses Recompose over conventional burial or cremation, one metric ton of carbon dioxide is prevented from entering the atmosphere. In addition, our approach to human composting requires 1/8 the energy of conventional burial or cremation. Recompose allows you to choose an end-of-life option that strengthens the environment rather than depleting it.

Moving Away from Toxic Practices

Current funerary practices are environmentally problematic. Each year, 2.7 million people die in the U.S., and most are buried in a conventional cemetery or cremated.

Cremation burns fossil fuels and emits carbon dioxide and particulates into the atmosphere. Conventional burial consumes valuable urban land, pollutes the soil, and contributes to climate change through resource-intensive manufacture and transport of caskets, headstones, and grave liners. The overall environmental impact of conventional burial and cremation is about the same.

Creating Soil Health

The breakdown of organic matter is an essential component in the cycle that allows the death of one organism to nurture the life of another. Soil is the foundation of a healthy ecosystem. It filters water, provides nutrients to plants, sequesters carbon, and helps regulate global temperature.

The Process

The graphic below illustrates how the Recompose approach to human composting works. Microbes, oxygen, and plant matter combine to gently convert human remains into soil.

PHASE 1

The Cycle Begins

Natural organic reduction (NOR), also known as human composting, is powered by beneficial microbes that occur naturally on our bodies and in the environment.

PHASE 2

The Laying In

Our staff lay the 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.

PHASE 3

The Vessel

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.

PHASE 4

The Soil

Each body creates one cubic yard of soil amendment, which is removed from the vessel and allowed to cure. Once completed, it can be used to enrich conservation land, forests, or gardens.

PHASE 5

Life After Death

The soil created returns the nutrients from our bodies to the natural world. It restores forests, sequesters carbon, and nourishes new life.

The Forest

Each body that completes the Recompose process creates one cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil amendment. We offer the opportunity to donate this soil to Bells Mountain, a 700-acre nonprofit land trust in southern Washington.

Welcome to Bells Mountain

This forest is a legally protected natural wilderness and will remain so in perpetuity. The land’s caretakers use the soil donated by Recompose to support the continued revitalization of wetlands, riparian habitats, local plants, and vulnerable wildlife species. Bells Mountain and its ecological restoration is managed by Remember Land, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

 

The Forest Needs You

Following a century of abuse and neglect, cleared lands battered by sun and wind are left with degraded soils and stunted forests. The soil Recompose delivers will enrich recovering clear-cut fields, helping them to flourish once again.

Healthy soil empowers agroforestry, holistic range management, and ecological development, all of which reduce negative climate impacts and contribute to the regeneration of natural ecosystems.

The Greenhouse

Recompose’s first location, called the Greenhouse, is located in Kent, Washington. We gave it this name because greenhouses are where seeds germinate and plants get their start.

The Vessel image

The Vessel

The Greenhouse contains ten Recompose vessels where the transformation from human to soil takes place. Each vessel is a steel cylinder, 8 feet long and 4 feet tall. The vessels are constantly monitored by our technical interface and our staff. We designed the Recompose vessel with nature in mind.

Please note we do not offer tours at this time.

The Recompose vessel

The Laying-In

Recompose calls the practice of placing a body into a vessel the “laying‑in.” Each body is laid onto a bed of wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. Over the next 30 days, everything breaks down thanks to natural decomposition.

The laying‑in marks the moment the transformation into soil begins. It represents a moment of transition. We invite family and friends to join us for their person’s laying-in if they choose, currently via video streaming. At this time, we are not hosting in-person gatherings.

FAQ

Please see below for more detailed information about the process, the environmental impact, and how Recompose differs from other human composting options. These FAQs offer an additional layer of detail to questions about why this process is needed and the science behind its safety and efficacy.

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.
In the human composting process, everything is transformed, including bones and teeth. By controlling the ratio of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and moisture, human composting creates the perfect environment for microbes and beneficial bacteria to thrive. Recompose staff also rotate the 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. At the end of the process, Recompose staff screen for non-organics such as implants, which are recycled whenever possible. Any bone fragments that remain larger than 1 centimeter are further broken down before the soil is returned to families.
The human composting process takes between six and eight 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 four weeks. We test the soil to ensure it is ready to be returned. Our staff will communicate timing throughout the process.
The Recompose human composting facility is currently only open to licensed staff. We hope to be able to host tours in the future. You can see photos and learn more about our location in our Welcome to the Recompose Greenhouse article.

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.

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.
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

Human composting is legal in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon. Recompose is currently open in Washington State and plans to open in Colorado by late 2022. 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.

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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.