Recompose is a company that has developed truly innovative technology to address the disposition of a person’s remains following death. The technology developed by Recompose is designed to dispose of human remains in the most eco-friendly manner possible. Indeed, the goal of the Recompose process is to ensure that human remains contribute to the overall improvement of the environment. 

The process developed by Recompose is known as the natural organic reduction of human remains. The company is headquartered in Washington state, which will be the first jurisdiction in which the natural organic reduction of human remains has been legalized.

Recompose announced that the company will begin the process of the natural reduction of human remains as of November 1, 2020. At that time, the company will be able to accept the remains of deceased loved ones for the Recompose process.

Overview of the Natural Organic Reduction of Human Remains

The natural organic reduction of human remains is a multifaceted process. Natural organic reduction is described as being powered by what are called “beneficial microbes.” These are microbes that occur naturally on the human body and in the environment more generally. 

Recompose receives a deceased person in the same manner as any other funeral home. In fact, Recompose is a licensed funeral home. The staff at Recompose places the body in the Recompose vessel. The body itself is placed in a cradle that is surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. The body is then covered with additional plant material.

The body and plant material remain in the vessel for a period of 30 days. The microbes break down the body. The body is broken down to the molecular level. This results in the formation of nutrient-dense soil. 

Following this initial phase, the soil goes through a secondary process to allow it to stabilize and cure. The curing process takes between two to four weeks. Each body creates one cubic yard of soil. When the entire process is completed, the soil can be used to enrich conservation lands, forests, or gardens. 

The resulting soil returns vital nutrients once part of our natural bodies to the natural world. The soil restores forests and other natural spaces, sequesters carbon, and nourishes new life. 

Comprehensive Death Care 

As mentioned a moment ago, Recompose is a licensed funeral home. In addition to facilitating the natural organic reduction of human remains, the company provides other services as well. According to Recompose, these include:

  • Transportation of human remains to the Seattle-area facility
  • Emphatic handling of a loved one’s remains
  • Opportunity for a virtual ceremony to memorialize a deceased person
  • Filing of the death certificate
  • Sheltering of the remains, including cold storage if needed
  • Transformation of the remains into soil
  • Respectful handling of the soil
  • Provision of a specially designed 64-ounce container of the soil to a designated person
  • Donation of the remaining soil to the Bells Mountain conservation forest
  • In the alternative, the entire cubic foot of soil can be conveyed to another location as designated by the estate

Cost of Natural Organic Reduction of Human Remains

According to Recompose, all of the costs associated with the natural organic reduction of human remains process is $5,500. The median cost of a funeral followed by cremation in the United States is $5,150. The medial costs of a viewing, funeral, and burial is over $9,100. A direct cremation costs about $500. 

Recompose offers pre-planning. A person can pay as little as $25 through the preplanning process. 

Compare and Contrast Recompose and Green Burial

There are some similarities and some differences between the Recompose process and green burial. Green burial is the practice of burying an un-embalmed body in a designated green burial cemetery. A simple casket or shroud is used to cover the remains. The green burial process encourages the natural decomposition of the remains. 

The Recompose process results in the natural decomposition of remains at a faster rate than typically occurs with a green burial. Natural organic reduction offered by Recompose is designed to be an urban solution where land is scarce and green burial is not practical. 

California and the Legalization of Natural Organic Reduction

The state of California recently began the process of legalizing natural organic reduction of human remains. There is still a significant way to go before the natural organic reduction of human remains becomes the law in California.

In 2020, the California State Assembly passed what is known as Assembly Bill 2592, the legislation that legalizes natural organic reduction of human remains. The California Senate has yet to take action on the bill. As is understandable, the California Legislature was largely preoccupied with issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy and other matters. There is talk of moving this legislation through the 2021 session of the California Legislature.

The Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development did pass the bill through unanimously in August 2020. The Senate Appropriations Committee also needs to approve the legislation before it comes to a full vote in the California Senate. That committee held up voting on the natural organic reduction legislation in 2020. This committee specifically declined to move the law forward because of budgetary concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. There would be some expense to the state to implement a law permitting natural organic reduction of human remains.

Plans are already being made to bring this legislation forward in 2021. Those involved in the process are highly optimistic that the legislation will pass through both houses of the Legislature. California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign any such legislation that comes out of the Legislature into law in 2021.