Urban Death Project composts human remains – legally

Posted at 10:58 AM, May 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-25 11:00:23-04

SEATTLE  - The composting of human remains just becamelegal in Washington, and Katrina Spade's company is helping people making their final resting places green.

“You just get to return to nature. We want our last gesture on earth to align with the way we tried to live our lives," Spade said.

In 2014, Spade launched a non-profit called “The Urban Death Project.”  Her goal is to give people a natural alternative from cremation and burial: human composting.

On Wednesday, Washington became the first state in the nation to legalize the composting of human remains.  For Spade, some things have changed, like the business's name; which is now ‘Recompose.'

“To recompose is to compose again,” Spade said. "During this process, our bodies break down on a molecular level and we are being recomposed.  We are being composed again, as soil."

It’s no longer a non-profit, but a public benefit corporation. Spade said it's one that holds environmental and social benefits on par with for-profits.

“We have soil scientists, legal experts, project managers, architects, all working on this together,” she said.

The concept remains the same.

“A body is laid into a vessel, onto a bed of wood chips and straw and alfalfa. And that basically creates the perfect environment for microbes to break the body down over the next month.  They are designed in a honeycomb shape and in some ways it feels like it reminds us that we are part of a collective, but we do get our own individual vessel,” Spade said.

The composting process takes about a month, after which, loved ones can come pick up the remains.

“The soil will be regulated, the same as ashes from cremation. And in Washington state, you can do anything you want with ashes from cremation, as long as you have permission from the landowner,” Spade said.