FAQ

overview

+ WHAT IS RECOMPOSE?

Recompose is a company founded by Katrina Spade to offer “natural organic reduction” to the public. Soon we will provide this service in facilities by staff who value transparency, participation, and choice and who recognize that for many, death is a momentous spiritual event.

Recompose is a Public Benefit Corporation, prioritizing people and the environment over profit.

+ WHAT IS NATURAL ORGANIC REDUCTION?

Natural organic reduction is a process which gently converts human remains into soil.

+ WHAT IS YOUR VISION?

The transformation of human to soil happens inside our reusable, hexagonal Recomposition Vessels. When the process has finished, families will be able to take home some of the soil created, while gardens on-site will remind us that all of life is interconnected.

We are working hard to open Recompose|SEATTLE by early 2021.

Vision of a Future Recompose Facility, Image by MOLT Studios

On May 21, 2019, Washington State’s Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5001 which legalizes natural organic reduction, or “the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil”. The law will go into effect on May 1, 2020.

Katrina Spade and the Recompose Team joined funeral directors, scientists, senators, and grassroots activists as Governor Jay Inslee signed SB5001 into law on May 21, 2019.

light-green-line.png

environmental impact

+ WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE MORE END-OF-LIFE OPTIONS?

Current funerary practices are environmentally harmful and, for some, psychologically unsatisfying. The current practices are part historical convention and part funeral industry mandate. Each year, 2.7 million people die in the U.S., and most are buried in a conventional cemetery or cremated, emitting carbon dioxide and particulates into the atmosphere. These practices consume valuable urban land, pollute the air and soil, and contribute to climate change.

+ HOW DOES NATURAL ORGANIC REDUCTION HELP THE ENVIRONMENT?

By converting human remains into soil, we minimize waste, avoid polluting groundwater with embalming fluid, and prevent the emissions of CO2 from cremation and from the manufacturing of caskets, headstones, and grave liners.

By allowing organic processes to transform our bodies and those of our loved ones into a useful soil amendment, we help to strengthen our relationship to the natural cycles while enriching the earth.

+ HAVE YOU MEASURED THE SPECIFIC IMPACT OF ORGANIC REDUCTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

To understand the specific environmental impacts of organic reduction, our team completed a Life Cycle Assessment comparing conventional burial, cremation, natural burial, and organic reduction. In our preliminary findings, organic reduction performed the best out of all four options in the majority of categories.

Notably, organic reduction performed the best in the global warming potential category (GWP). Thanks to the carbon sequestration which occurs at different points throughout the process, we estimate that a metric ton of CO2 will be saved each time someone chooses organic reduction over cremation or conventional burial.

+ HOW MUCH SOIL IS CREATED PER PERSON?

Our process creates about a cubic yard of soil per person, which is a lot! Friends and family are welcome to take some (or all) home to grow a tree or garden. Any remaining soil will go to nourish conservation land in the Puget Sound region.

+ HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM GREEN BURIAL?

Our patent-pending process is modeled on green burial, but designed for our cities where land is scarce. Organic reduction happens inside of a vessel, which is modular and re-usable. Bodies are covered with wood chips and aerated, providing the perfect environment for naturally occurring microbes and beneficial bacteria. Over the span of about 30 days, the body is fully transformed, creating soil which can then be used to grow new life.

light-green-line.png

practical questions

+ WHEN WILL YOUR SERVICE BE AVAILABLE?

It is our goal to open Recompose|SEATTLE in December of 2020.

+ HOW MUCH WILL THE SERVICE COST?

We are tentatively aiming for a price of $5500 for the Recompose service. For context, a green burial in Washington is around $6000, a cremation can range from $1000-$7000, and a conventional burial is $8000+.

The price of a Recompose service will include transportation of the body to our facility from within the Seattle metropolitan area, filing of the death certificate, time with family and friends in our beautiful space, and the transformation of the body into soil.

Our price is based on being able to build a sustainable business in order to make natural organic reduction a permanent death care option, serve people for decades to come, and make our services available to all who want them. Besides creating accessible pricing, we are forming a community fund to support those with fewer assets.

If you sign up for updates here, we'll notify you when prices are confirmed.

+ CAN I SIGN UP IN ADVANCE FOR THIS OPTION?

Not yet, but we hope to offer "pre-arrangements" of our services in the future. Please sign up for updates here, and you'll be notified when we have a way for you to sign up in advance.

+ WHEN I DIE, CAN I HAVE MY BODY TRANSPORTED TO RECOMPOSE|SEATTLE?

Yes. Once Recompose|SEATTLE has opened its doors, we will be able to accept bodies from out of the state or country. You can either work with a local funeral home in your area to arrange transportation, or families can transport the body themselves. Please be aware that local laws on transport vary, and moving a body may require an appropriate permit and specialized container depending on regulations in your area.

+ HOW CAN I PLAN FOR THIS TO BE PART OF MY END-OF-LIFE WISHES?

Many of you have asked us how to make sure your body undergoes organic reduction when you die. The most important step? Tell your family and friends what your wishes are. You can do this over dinner, via an email, or by writing them an old fashioned letter. Ideally, you will tell your next of kin several times what you want, so there is no confusion. It can be a great way to have a deep and meaningful conversation.

From a legal perspective, every state has its own set of rules. It’s important to know the laws and regulations of your own state in order to leave instructions that will be legally valid and enforceable. Recompose recommends that you consult an estate planning attorney or funeral law expert in your area. In some cases, you can sign a disposition of remains document and specifically list natural organic reduction as your choice. If this is available and you do sign it, be sure to inform your family and friends!

In the coming months, Recompose plans to implement a way for people to pre-arrange their end-of-life wishes directly with us. Being on this newsletter list is the best way to be informed when that service is ready. In the meantime, send your nearest and dearest to our website and tell them that you want your body transformed into soil when you die.

+ CAN I BE AN ORGAN DONOR FIRST?

Yes, you can.

light-green-line.png

process details

+ HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS PROCESS IS SAFE?

Natural organic reduction is a managed biological process used to convert organic material, including human remains, into a stable earthy organic material that is unrecognizable as human remains. During the process, change occurs on a molecular level.

A form of natural organic reduction has been practiced for decades by farmers as a way of recycling livestock back to the earth. The safety of this practice has been well documented by many different Departments of Ecology and research universities around the United States.

In 2018, Washington State University completed research to demonstrate that natural organic reduction is a safe and effective means of human disposition. The results of that study can be read here.

+ WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BONES?

Everything - including bones and teeth – is transformed. That’s because our system creates the perfect environment for thermophilic (i.e. heat-loving) microbes and beneficial bacteria to break everything down quite quickly. By controlling the ratio of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and moisture, our system creates the perfect environment for these creatures to thrive. We also mix the material at several points during the process to ensure thorough decomposition.

At the end of the 30 days, we screen for non-organics and make sure the resultant soil is finished. The material we give back to families is much like the topsoil you'd buy at your local nursery. At the end of our process, all that remains is soft, beautiful soil.

+ WHAT HAPPENS TO ANY DRUGS OR PHARMACEUTICALS OR ANTIBIOTICS THAT REMAIN IN A BODY AFTER DEATH?

Natural organic reduction is a managed thermophilic biological process used to convert organic material, including human remains, into a more stable earthy organic material. During the process, change occurs on a molecular level. Most pharmaceuticals - including antibiotics - and other drugs are reduced by the natural organic reduction process as they are decomposed by microorganisms.

+ WHAT ABOUT ARTIFICIAL LIMBS?

We screen for non-organics like metal fillings, pacemakers, and prostheses and artificial joints during the process, and recycle them whenever possible.

+ WHAT ABOUT PATHOGENS (I.E. MICROORGANISMS THAT CAN CAUSE DISEASE)?

Natural organic reduction creates the perfect environment for microbes and beneficial bacteria to thrive. When they do, they create temperatures of 120-160 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures destroy harmful pathogens, and transform the body, wood chips, and straw into a final material which is safe for humans and plant life.

+ ARE THERE ANY INSTANCES WHERE SOMEONE WOULD NOT BE A CANDIDATE FOR NATURAL ORGANIC REDUCTION?

The process of natural organic reduction destroys most harmful pathogens. However, there is not enough evidence showing that the process breaks down prion disease. So, someone who has died of a prion disease, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, would not be a candidate for natural organic reduction. Similarly, someone who has died of a highly contagious disease such as Ebola (an outbreak of which would be managed by the CDC) would not be a candidate for organic reduction.

+ WHAT ABOUT PETS?

For now, Recompose is focusing only on death care for humans, not pets.

light-green-line.png

locations, jobs, investments

+ WHEN IS RECOMPOSE COMING TO [INSERT LOCATION HERE]?

Recompose is focused on opening Recompose|SEATTLE right now. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to be informed of our plans to work in other locations.

+ WHEN IS RECOMPOSE COMING TO [INSERT INTERNATIONAL LOCATION HERE]?

Recompose is focused on opening Recompose|SEATTLE right now. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to be informed of our plans to work in other locations.

Unfortunately, we have limited bandwidth and can’t interview with individuals or students. Good luck with your project!

+ CAN I FRANCHISE OR LICENSE THE RECOMPOSE TECHNOLOGY?

Not yet. But if you are signed up for our newsletter you will know when licensing opportunities arise.

+ DO YOU HAVE ANY JOB OPENINGS?

All of our current job openings are posted here.

+ CAN I INVEST IN YOUR COMPANY?

Yes you can. Please visit this link to learn more about our current investment offering.

light-green-line.png

for funeral homes

+ HOW CAN MY FUNERAL HOME PARTNER WITH RECOMPOSE?

We want to make partnering easy. Your funeral home will be able to offer natural organic reduction to your families, just like you would cremation or another service. Recompose|SEATTLE will be licensed as a disposition center - much like a crematory - and the way we work with funeral homes will be very similar.

Once we have opened our doors (estimated March 2021) you can call us when you have clients who want natural organic reduction for their final disposition. In the meantime, please sign up for our newsletter to be informed of our progress.

+ DO YOU HAVE INFORMATION WE CAN SHARE WITH OUR FAMILIES NOW?

We do. Please email info@recompose.life and put "funeral home information" in the subject line, and we will get in touch.

light-green-line.png

other stuff

+ WHAT'S THE HISTORY OF RECOMPOSE?

In 2012, as a graduate student of architecture, Katrina Spade began researching the funeral industry. She became disappointed in the environmental ethic of both cremation and conventional burial, and saddened by what she saw of the often dis-empowering and opaque culture of the funeral industry. Attracted by the concept of natural burials, Katrina set out to design an environmentally sustainable, urban-focused method of disposition of the dead.

After graduating, Katrina worked nights and weekends on the idea for a full year. Then in 2014, she received the Echoing Green Climate Fellowship to fund her work. She founded the non-profit Urban Death Project (UDP) and began collaborating with researchers in soil science, law, and funeral practices to lay the foundation for a new type of death care to exist.

From 2014-2016, the UDP worked to create awareness of the problem of a toxic industry, researched the legal landscape relating to the care of the dead, and performed several model human decomposition studies in collaboration with Western Carolina University's Forensic Anthropology Department. Successes included a Kickstarter Campaign that raised over $90,000 from backers all over the world, a social media campaign that reached hundreds of thousands of people, and positive media attention from The Guardian, NPR, Wired, and the New York Times.

In early 2017, it became clear that it was time to start a company to pilot the recomposition system and raise the funds to open the first facility. Katrina and her board decided to close the non-profit UDP, and Katrina founded Recompose, a public benefit corporation.

Our mission is to offer a new form of death care that honors both our loved ones and the planet earth.

+ HOW CAN I KEEP IN TOUCH?

To keep informed of our progress, please sign up for our newsletter!