Return of the human body to earth without flames or chemicals.
This has been a long-desired alternative to pumping formaldehyde into a loved one, locking them in a rebar-reinforced concrete vault, and burying them in a hole six feet deep.
Or to reduce the once larger than life mother or dad, sister, brother or dear friend to a handful of gray ashes.
Finally, technology, time, and law have aligned to bring what some once saw as the fantasy of aging hippies to become a reality to reform and rock the death care industry.
As early as April or mid-May 2021, Return Home, the first large-scale “terramation” – human composting facility – ever built in the world, will open in an 11,500 square meter warehouse at the north end of Auburn with 72 ships that can accommodate 72 bodies per Convert month to soil at 30 times the rate of soil burial.
To “bring sustainable disposition into the mainstream,” said Micah Truman, CEO and founder of Return Home.
To begin with, Return Home’s approach is no different from traditional burial or cremation. When someone dies, it is usually family or friends who come forward, and people are very focused in what they want to do. For example, Return Home received a call last week from people in Los Angeles who did not want to use the crematorium and had already heard of Return Home.
“We can either work with funeral directors or we can take the body and work directly with the family,” Truman said. “We deal with the transport, both there and back with the ground. It’s completely turnkey so the family doesn’t have to worry. And internally, we have the ability and the technology, which is completely unique, to completely transform a body into earth at an incredible rate. “
How it works
The process uses a jar or pod – 8 feet long, 3.5 feet by 3.5 feet – into which the workers first put the all-organic fill material made from alfalfa, straw, and sawdust. When you put the body inside, close the capsule.
The pod contains proprietary machines and technologies that Return Home does not make available to the public.
What happens next is analogous to composting. In this case, the mixture and the body reach a temperature south of 140 degrees, which means almost cooking heat. The process is aerobic, which means that oxygen flows in and out of the vessel continuously. It picks up the microbes in the body and hyperdrives them, making them work incredibly quickly. It usually takes many years to do this and leave the soil behind.
“That is what nature meant to us. We just make it faster, ”said Truman.
Carefully trained technicians oversee the process. An air filter system called “The Octopus”, which is attached to all 72 capsules, transports the odors to a machine where they are treated.
Within a month, the body is gone, leaving only the bones, which the workers reduce and then return to the ground in the pod.
After another month – two months in total – the remains are handed over to the family.
“We’ll give that to the family,” said Truman, nodding to a bowl that was full of once-dead pigs, but was now a fine, dark-brown, odorless compost that slipped effortlessly out of your hands and through your fingers. “You can plant that in your rose garden, Uncle George no less.”
According to Truman, people have a legal right to use this compost however they want, just as they are allowed to do with cremated remains.
“We have been working on it for 26 months now and our facility is just getting up. Science was a lot of work. Then after we did the science we had to build the technology, and each machine was individually designed and custom made. That was his own business. Then we had to find a facility, and the facility had to be designated as a specific size crematorium in a specific location, and that was an adventure in itself.
“We had to develop this air filtration system that we call the Octopus, and the Octopus was an animal in its own right, pun fully intended. It’s a very specific design that we made and that is unique in our industry. Basically, all of the things we created took a lot of time and expertise, but I think we’re there, we’re ready to go, ”said Truman.
The public is ready
In the United States, funeral homes and all things related to it, on average, cost a grieving family about $ 6,000, although the price of caskets is unlimited. Return Home offers its services plus transportation for $ 5,000.
“So we’re very cheap, and we’re making sure your last action on this planet is to give it back and not pollute it,” Truman said.
Truman said he was confident that “the mainstream” was ready to embrace the idea of turning a body into compost that can be returned to the earth without polluting it.
In fact, the first human composting company, Recompost, opened weeks ago in downtown Kent, albeit on a much smaller scale with 10 ships, and another facility in the southern part of the state is already open with two ships. Both facilities are already busy.
Of course, Truman is aware that some people will be uncomfortable at first when you plant your beloved in the back garden.
“I think we always say we’re uncomfortable with Uncle George feeding the roses, but Uncle George will feed the roses no matter what,” Truman said. “It is a bit wrong to assume that we are doing something different from what the world has always done. So if I look weird I can see our path as pretty reasonable and the others as something more than a twist. It is not a question of our disposition method, because ours is the most harmless of the group.
“I think what concerns us most is not our final disposition. I think what worries us most is that we have to talk about dying in order to talk about it. And we don’t like to talk about dying. It’s even about our own mortality and, what is more difficult, the mortality of the people we love, ”Truman said.
The reaction of the faith communities has so far been mostly positive, said Truman.
“Well, there will always be certain objections,” said Truman. “The Catholic Church has objected to cremation for a long time, but I think they got around. I just spoke to a group of rabbis on our webinar two weeks ago and they were incredibly interested. They said, ‘You know. The Jewish burial tradition is just that: it’s tradition; It is not a scripture. What the scriptures say is that we should give something back to the earth. This is our commitment. ‘I was really blown away by the Jewish community I heard. In fact, three rabbis come here to view our facility right after the Passover. There is a spectrum, but I don’t see great resistance from much, no more than any other effort I would see. ”
Before that could happen, as Truman noted, Washington State lawmakers had to approve SB 5001, which legalized terramation from 2020.
“This is unprecedented,” said Truman. “Iceland, Norway, nobody has it. This is the first place in the world to do this. And for some crazy reason, Kent and Auburn, where I am, are the epicenter of that industry. So suddenly we have this particular region that the whole world is going to be looking at, and that’s kind of a cracker. SB 5001 is literally changing the way we do death care in America. We have cremation, we have funeral, and now we’ve got a third option. ”
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Courtesy Nathan Janser. Shortly before completion, Return Home, the world’s first large-scale terrama system in the north-west of Auburn, is due to open within a few weeks.
Courtesy Nathan Janser. Two of the 72 processing capsules and the racks on which they are stored are located in Return Home’s terramation facility at 4146 B Place in northwest Auburn.