In 2019, Washington became the first and, so far, the only state to legalize composting human bodies indoors. Starting next month, a company called Recompose plans to offer, according to its delicate phrasing, “natural organic reduction.”
The process involves putting a body inside an 8-by-4-foot steel cylinder with wood chips, straw, and alfalfa for 30 days while microbes break down the remains. The organic material then goes into a curing bin to cool and dry out, resulting in about a cubic yard of fertile soil.
The company touts its new service as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional burial or cremation, claiming each body composted keeps 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and requires one-eighth of the energy.
“People want their deaths to mean something. They want their bodies to be useful in some way,” Nora Menkin, executive director of the People’s Memorial Association, a Seattle-based funeral home, told the internet publication One Zero.
Doug Potter, a professor at the Southern Evangelical Bible Seminary & Bible College, noted the process may raise concerns for Christians, who believe it’s important to treat the human body with respect. Though composting, like cremation, is not inherently sinful, he said, traditional burial “preserves the sanctity of the body and symbolizes our hope of resurrection.” —J.B.