First human composting site set for Seattle

SEATTLE — Recompose is building its first human composting location in SODO.

The company will be the first of its kind in the world and is set to open in spring 2021.

Katrina Spade, the CEO of Recompose, came up with the idea more than seven years ago when she was contemplating her future. "We have a ton of interest. It's really exciting," Spade said.

She realized livestock have been composted by farmers for years. She was looking for an alternative for humans, so she teamed up with the WSU Soil Science Department. They used the bodies of six human donors and proved it is safe and effective for humans, as well.

The law she helped pass goes into effect in May 2020.

Spade worked with Alan Maskin at Seattle design firm Olson Kundig to create the space for Recompose.

Olson Kundig just finished the $100 million remodel of the Space Needle.

Creating a space for human composting is a new kind of first. "I'll be honest with you. I was shocked. It was the craziest idea I had ever heard," said Alan Maskin of Olson Kundig.

Maskin went on to say he was quickly won over by the idea. "The more she talked about what it means and how this can transform the burial industry, I literally, in that one conversation, transitioned to two thoughts -- one, this is what I thought would be appropriate for myself. But the more I thought about it I thought it would be appropriate for the world."

Recompose will be built inside an existing warehouse in SODO. Spade chose Seattle for Recompose. "I would say it is the perfect city to get started in. I mean Seattle is place where people are really connected to nature and care a lot about the environment and the impact their lives make on the environment. And there's a little piece of Seattle that's a tiny bit dark and willing to think about death and mortality than the rest of the world, I think," said Spade.

The process requires putting a body in a vessel with wood chips, alfalfa and straw. By introducing oxygen, Spade says the composting takes about a month.

The building will have space to hold a service, and say goodbye.

Loved ones can decide if they want to come pick up the soil a month later.

But it's a lot -- a square yard. They can also donate it to a sustainable forest in Southwest Washington.

At this point Recompose expects to charge about $5,500. They say it falls between the cost of cremation and burial.

As for the soil -- it is treated similarly to ashes. You need the permission of the property owner to spread them.

Spade expects the SODO location of Recompose to be the first of many.

"Sometimes I'll be talking to a room full of people and they'll say, 'You need to make a bigger place. You need to make sure you build two and three places at once because we all want this in this room.' And I say, 'You're not all going to die tomorrow’."

The Human Composting Bill goes into effect in Washington State in May.

Spade is now working to get a human composting law passed in Colorado.

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