Our Model

Recompose uses a process called natural organic reduction to 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

Originally conceived by founder Katrina Spade, human composting was developed by Recompose over years of rigorous research and design. The biological process mimics the earth’s natural cycles and is similar to what occurs on the forest floor as organic material decomposes and becomes topsoil. Human composting is powered by beneficial microbes that occur naturally on our bodies and in the environment.

PHASE 1

The Cycle Begins

Shortly after someone dies, they come into Recompose's care. Over the next eight to twelve weeks, our staff provides respectful and personalized care while the body transforms into soil.

PHASE 2

The Laying In

Our staff lay the body in a vessel surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa, and straw carefully calibrated and specially tailored to each body. The vessel is closed and the transformation into soil begins. 

PHASE 3

The Vessel

The body and plant material remain in the vessel for five to seven weeks. Microbes power change on the molecular level, resulting in the formation of a nutrient-dense soil. 

PHASE 4

The Soil

Each body creates about one cubic yard of soil amendment, which is removed from the vessel and allowed to cure for three to five weeks. 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.

Soil Donation

Recompose partners with conservation organizations, so you can choose to donate some, or all, of the soil to nourish and revitalize the land.

The Land Needs Us

Each body that completes the Recompose process creates one cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil amendment. Healthy soil helps to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, store water, and make land more resilient to climate change.

Conservation and Restoration Efforts

The soil donated to our conservation partners helps protect ecosystems, nourish habitats, and to support the revitalization of wetlands, riparian habitats, local plants, and vulnerable wildlife species in Washington State.

Our Location

Recompose is a licensed green funeral home in Seattle supporting clients across the U.S. Our experienced funeral directors provide personalized support throughout the entire death care journey.

Recompose Seattle Reception Area

The Space

This beautiful and intimate space in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood is designed for friends and family to honor the person who has died. We have 34 vessels at this location where bodies are transformed into soil.

room for a green funeral with human composting bed

The Laying In

At the time of laying in, our staff place the body into a composting vessel surrounded by a mixture of wood chips, alfalfa, and straw carefully calibrated and specially tailored to each individual. The vessel is closed and the transformation into soil begins. Much like the moment when a body is interred into the earth during a burial, the laying in represents a moment of transition.

White human composting vessels where the transformation from human to soil takes place

The Vessels

The transformation from human to soil takes place inside a Recompose vessel. Your loved one’s body is surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa, and straw in the vessel and is closely monitored while microbes naturally break the body down into soil.

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 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 five to seven weeks, the body inside the vessel breaks down thanks to the natural action of the microbes. The soil is then removed from the vessel, screened for non-organic items such as hip replacements or stents, and allowed to cure for an additional three to five weeks. Once the process is complete, the soil can be used on trees and plants, or donated to conservation efforts. Each body creates about one cubic yard of soil. Watch Recompose Founder and CEO, Katrina Spade, describe how human composting works during her 2023 talk at the End Well Conference.

Explore more

Check out our infographic that shows the steps of the Recompose human composting process.
Bones and teeth do not fully break down in the human composting process due to their mineral composition. Similar to other forms of death care, equipment is needed to reduce the bones. 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. To create that environment, Recompose uses a mixture of plant materials carefully calibrated and tailored to each body. Recompose staff rotate each vessel at several points during the process to ensure thorough aeration and exposure to resources for the microbes. Bones are reduced to a fine powder by equipment after the soil is removed from the Recompose vessel. Staff also screen for non-organics such as implants, which are recycled whenever possible. The reduced bone is added back to the compost to help balance the compost nutrients and make minerals available to plants. It continues to break down and return to the environment over time. Recompose follows all compost-testing regulations put forth by the Washington State Department of Licensing and the Board of Health. The pH range of Recompose compost is usually between 6.5 and 7, which is ideal for most plants. Learn more about the human composting process.   human composting soil composition Sample compost, not created from a human body, that has been through our composting process.
The entire human composting process generally takes between eight to twelve weeks. Our staff will communicate timing and key moments throughout the process. Each body spends about five to seven weeks in a Recompose vessel, then the soil is transferred to an aerated bin to cure for an additional three to five weeks. Recompose follows all compost-testing regulations put forth by the Washington State Department of Licensing and the Board of Health. The pH range of Recompose compost is usually between 6.5 and 7, which is ideal for most plants. Watch Recompose Founder and CEO, Katrina Spade, describe timing in the human composting process during her 2023 talk at the End Well Conference.

Explore more

Check out our infographic that shows the steps of the Recompose human composting process.
Yes. We offer both virtual tours and in-person guided, small group tours led by Recompose staff. Learn more and sign up for a tour. See photos and learn more about our Seattle location.

Environmental Impact

Human composting is a more environmentally-friendly option than burial or cremation. This is because the process does not use fossil fuel like cremation, does not require the casket and cemetery resources of burial, and sequesters carbon as soil is created. As the nutrients in the compost are used over time by the plants in contact with it, the impact of a person’s choice for human composting continues to expand exponentially. 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 87% less energy than cremation, which typically uses fossil fuel to create sustained heat of over 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 4 hours. No casket or coffin is used during human composting, nor is a concrete grave liner required - all items that add to the carbon footprint of a death. When human composting transforms the organic material of our bodies, the carbon is captured, or sequestered, in the soil created. Rather than being released as carbon dioxide gas through exhaust during a cremation or as a hydrocarbon gas like methane, the carbon contained in each body returns to the earth. As the nutrients in the compost are used over time by the plants in contact with it, the impact of a person’s choice for human composting continues to expand exponentially.

Soil Information

The Recompose human composting process creates approximately one cubic yard of soil per body which is roughly 3 x 3 x 3 feet. This amount fills the bed of most pickup trucks and weighs approximately from 500 pounds to over 1,000 pounds. The process begins with three cubic yards of plant material. Families can take some or all of the soil home once the process is complete, and donate what does not go home to conservation efforts. Learn more about how to consider your soil options.
The Recompose process creates approximately one cubic yard of soil—approximately 500 pounds to over 1,000 pounds. Soil tests indicate compost created by the Recompose process is appropriate for established shrubs, trees, house plants, and flower gardens; use on tender annuals should be avoided. 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. 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 as a mulch and at lower concentration around roots of young plants. Recompose follows all compost-testing regulations put forth by the Washington State Department of Licensing and the Board of Health.
The soil created by human composting is biologically 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 6.5 - 7 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 State, the law for scattering human composting soil is the same for cremated remains—you must have permission of the landowner. It is legal to scatter in navigable waterways. If you have any questions about what you can do with your person’s soil, our staff is here to help.

Legal

In the United States, human composting is legal in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California, New York, Nevada, Arizona, Maryland, Delaware, Minnesota, and Maine. We are partnering with lawmakers to legalize human composting in more states and, eventually, around the world. See a full list of states working on legislation here. If you’re interested in learning more about the legislative process and getting involved, visit our legislative advocacy page with information, further learning, talking points, and more. Curious how human composting becomes law? While each state is different, we wrote an article about what it takes to legalize human composting.
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 does the process for passing new laws. Because of this, we don’t have an easy template for how to pass human composting laws in new states but we've created an article about how human composting becomes law to give you a sense of what goes into the process. Talking to friends and family about your end-of-life wishes and why Recompose and human composting is meaningful for you is a great way to start building interest and demand in your area. We've pulled together a number of resources and talking points for those interested in learning more on our Legislative Advocacy page.
An important but often little-known aspect of legalization is that there is typically a lag between legalization and the fully operational phase of the law. After a state passes a law to allow human composting, the government must then develop the rules and regulations to accompany the law. Depending on the state, this process can take anywhere from six months to five years. It’s only after these necessary rules and regulations are in place that Recompose can apply for licensing and begin offering human composting. At this time, Washington and Colorado are the two states where human composting is operational. Currently, Recompose’s only facility is in Seattle but we intend to expand in order to increase local and regional access for all who are interested in this care. Once Recompose opens more locations, any member of Precompose, our prepayment program, can be cared for at the nearest facility (in other words, membership is transferable). We will share expansion news with our community as plans emerge. If you haven’t already, we recommend subscribing to our newsletter to receive news and updates. It’s important to note that you do not need to live or die in Washington or in a state where human composting is legal to receive our death care services. In fact, about a third of our clients are from out of state. The Recompose team is available to answer transportation questions and help with logistics. Read more about how transportation works.

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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 company in the world, we are a trusted leader in ecological death care. We are Seattle’s only human composting provider and serve clients across the U.S.

Recompose Seattle
4 S. Idaho St, Seattle, WA 98134
Open by appointment

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Voted Best Funeral Home in Seattle Times’ Best in the PNW Contest 2023

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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.