A local nonprofit group in Seattle, Washington wants to offer a human composting service which would see corpses recycled back into “nutrient-rich” soil to be used to grow flowers, trees, and/or possibly even food.
Katrina Spade of the Urban Death Project thinks composting is a meaningful, sanitary and ecological alternative to burial and cremation.
“The idea is to fold the dead back into the city,” she said. “The options we currently have for our bodies are lacking, both from an environmental standpoint, but also, and perhaps more importantly, from a meaning standpoint.”
Spade hopes to have the business active within 3 years but faces significant legal and regulatory hurdles as well as fundraising and finding a site on which to build the facility, which is already under development.
Currently Washington state law requires that all human remains be buried, cremated, donated to science or transferred out-of-state – a law which would need to be changed in order for Spades service to be legal.
The project’s plans include a three-story-high concrete composting structure called “the core,” which would be surrounded by “contemplative spaces for visitors.”
No embalming would be necessary, obviously – and after a ceremony friends and family would help insert the body into “the core,” where over several weeks it would turn into about one cubic yard of compost.
The compost could be taken by the family or left for use by the Urban Death Project.
“In this system, we transform from being human to being something else,” Spade said. “And at the end, what’s coming out, the material that we use – it’s special and it’s sacred, but it’s not human.”
“People love the idea of growing trees,” she said. “They get really squeamish with tomatoes.”