Colorado is just a few votes and a signature away from just joining Washington State and giving people the opportunity to turn their human bodies into pounds of earth after death. It is low in energy and would cost about the same as a cremation, but it would be some time before the funeral directors could implement it before Coloradans could use it.

If SB21-006 sounds familiar, it’s because it didn’t make it through last year’s session due to COVID, so sponsors decided to bring it back. They have company in other states, with California, Oregon, and New York also considering human composting this year.

“It’s an innovative idea in a state that prides itself on its natural beauty and possibilities,” said Denver Democratic Senator Robert Rodriguez. He is one of the money sponsors.

Rodriguez, who was raised Catholic, said this isn’t necessarily something he wants to do himself, but he believes that Coloradans should have a choice. He and the other bill sponsors, Democratic MP Brianna Titone from Arvada and GOP Rep Matt Soper from Delta, said they heard from people excited about the option.

Among them is Denver-based Wendy Deboskey. Deboskey said her husband urged her family to consider end-of-life plans because he lost loved ones at a young age, but she didn’t like any of the current options as an environmentalist.

She saw what Washington State was doing, and before she could petition Colorado leaders to think about it, she found that Titone was already working on a bill.

“It seems like a really natural and gentle way to get back to Earth fully, just on an accelerated basis,” Deboskey said.

Colorado law does not allow multiple people’s soil to be combined without consent, to be sold, or to be used to grow food for human consumption.

Some in the post-death industry are excited to get involved while others are looking for more details. Olinger Funeral, Cremation & Cemetery-Crown Hill told the Post in a statement that it needs to learn more but believes in the importance of choice. The Colorado Funeral Directors Association did not respond to requests for comment.

The Colorado Catholic Conference opposes this because the Church “teaches that the human body is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral society,” adding that there is insufficient research on what the practices are for health will do and safety.

The process

The company Recompose already offers human composting in the state of Washington, namely in a plant for “natural organic reduction”, similar to a crematorium. Founder and CEO Katrina Spade got the idea after learning about green funerals and decided she was looking for a similar option that could save space in urban settings.

A friend of hers said that her farmers have been composting cattle carcasses for several decades. So, she thought, if cows can do it, why not humans? It took about 10 years to develop a process that would break down a body faster without chemicals.

The process “still amazes me every time,” Spade said before explaining how it works.

A body is placed in a cradle and then placed in a vessel over a bed of wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. The body is covered with more of this material. The ships are stacked vertically, and there are 10 at the Washington facility.

Spade says she considers it a “hotel for the dead,” because that’s where the corpse will stay in a greenhouse-like facility for about 30 days while it is turned to earth. Inorganic materials are sifted and sorted; a titanium hip does not make it into the ground and teeth and bones are also broken down.

Recompose employees concentrate on “fine-tuning the environment” so that microbes that are already present on the body, on the materials and in the air can break down the organic material on a molecular level. They ensure that the proportions of carbon materials such as wood chips and nitrogen (some of which are in the body) are right. You also need to make sure that the moisture levels and oxygen provided by ventilation are ideal for degradation. There are different “recipes” for different body sizes to make the nutrient-rich compost.

Washington state guidelines require temperatures to reach a minimum of 131 degrees Fahrenheit and remain so for at least 72 consecutive hours. There are also other regulations regarding permits, odors, and floor testing that Recompose expects to be adopted by Colorado authorities as well.

This type of composting is done naturally, but the process of recompose is accelerated. Each body creates a cubic meter of earth – a few hundred pounds, roughly what would fit in the back of a pickup truck. This soil is then placed in a finishing container where it hardens or dries out for 2-4 weeks.

Washington State University conducted a pilot study of the process and said the end result was “not identifiable as human remains,” although only a summary was published.

According to Recompose, the process requires an eighth of the energy that is used in a conventional burial or cremation. In addition, a ton of carbon dioxide per person is saved. Cremation, for example, burns fossil fuels and emits carbon dioxide, while conventional burials can pollute the soil and contribute to climate change, Recompose said.

At Recompose, a natural organic reduction funeral parlor in Kent, Wash another 30 days.

Another option

Death is difficult to talk about, so Jamie Sarche of Feldman Mortuary in Denver is grateful for one more reason to start talking to people, even if they ultimately don’t choose to use human composting – or This year won’t be Second House Committee and House Entire goodbye.

“If you don’t think about it beforehand, when you die you will take the path of least resistance,” said Sarche, the funeral director’s chief of funeral planning and aftercare at the morgue. “So their loved ones could choose something they would never want because they feel pressured to do it because someone has just died.”

Sarche said there were many details left to clear, and it would be a big investment for a funeral home or morgue to take on – Recompose has raised $ 6.7 million to use for its 4,000-square-foot facility in Kent, Washington However, Feldman Mortuary is interested in the concept and possibly even contracting out services when they become available.

Likewise, The Natural Funeral in Boulder County is keen to provide the service, particularly because of the environmental impact, said Seth Viddal, managing partner. The funeral home will have other options, including green funerals and water cremation, but this would be another possible choice. Viddal said the funeral home was already receiving requests for the service.

In Washington, Recompose offers human composting for $ 5,500, including tillage; a memorial service for the family to see the body in the ship (currently via Zoom due to COVID); and the ability to donate the soil from the bodies to a 700 acre charitable land trust, return the soil to the family, or a combination of both.

By comparison, the water burn at The Natural Funeral in Boulder costs $ 5,000. A typical Denver area cremation costs about $ 3,000 or $ 4,000 with a memorial service, and a green burial with a permanent resting place for a corpse would start at about $ 10,000, according to Sarche.

Spade said she plans to bring Recompose to Colorado when the law becomes law.

“It’s an additional option in the options menu when someone dies,” Spade said. “It’s a choice, both for the consumer – which I think is very important that we have as many options as possible for corpses when we die – and it’s also a choice for funeral directors if they choose to get involved. “