Can We Compost Dead Bodies?


Ever thought about what you’re going to
do with your body after you’re done with it? Have you considered covering it in cow
manure? Hey meatbags, Julian here for DNews at YouTube
Space LA. I know that intro is a little macabre, but it’s true, one day your body isn’t
going to really have you in it anymore. At that point there are a few options for what
you can do with it. You can preserve it and bury it in a box, entomb it in stone, or burn
it to ash and let your family keep you over their mantle. But as the Lion King teaches us, there is
a circle of life and all of these options kind of take you out of it. According to the
New York Times, that’s why Katrina Spade is hoping to make the first ever human composting
facility in Seattle, because of course it would be in Seattle. Composting is basically turbocharging nature’s
decomposition process. By adding moisture and carbon rich material to carrion in stages,
the microbes that break down organic material can reach a fever pitch. Literally, they’ll
work so hard and fast they’ll heat up the compost pile up to a 170 degrees (77C). As
a bonus, that’s hot enough to kill a lot of pathogens in the pile. The end result is
called humus, which is a nutrient rich dark brown soil, and though spelled similarly,
it has nothing to do with the delicious chickpea paste that goes great on pita chips. In places like a forest floor, decomposition
to humus will happen naturally to all carcasses, it doesn’t matter if it’s human or another
animal. The nutrients in the humus are then used by plants to grow, the plants use the
sunlight to make food for animals, the animals eventually die and decompose and become food
for plants. It’s an elegant cycle of life and death and for hundreds of thousands of
years, humans were part of it. But starting in the early days of human civilization,
we began removing ourselves from the process. Sometimes we did it for the dead’s sake:
the Egyptians believed they would need things they had in life for the journey afterwards,
so it was important to them their bodies were preserved. Sometimes we do it for our own
sake: we’re respectful to the bodies of our dead as a way of honoring their memory
and easing our own emotional pain. That’s the biggest problem Spade faces in
her goal to build a human composting facility. There doesn’t need to be a major scientific
breakthrough to do it, many farms already compost dead livestock. But say the words
“Human Composting” and suddenly everyone pictures someone’s leg sticking out of a
green bin with coffee grounds and banana peels on top of it. Spade’s compromise is to have
the best of both worlds: a respectful ceremony and procession for the mourners who deliver
their loved one’s body to the top of a three story tall composting vault with up to 30
other deceased. Slowly the body will work its way down and eventually out the bottom
comes humus. Spade estimates each body will make about a cubic meter’s worth of nutrient-rich
soil! Yes, it’s not lost on me that a woman named Spade is trying to turn bodies into
dirt. Right now because of our perceptions on how
the dead should be treated, it’s not exactly… legal. But maybe perceptions will change.
Nobody gets wrapped in gauze with their organs stuffed in jars like the egyptians used to.
Even cremation wasn’t common 50 years ago, but is considered totally normal today. There’s
even a company that sells biodegradable urns with seeds in them to turn cremated bodies
into trees. The difference between that and composting, is human ash isn’t as nutrient
rich, but the composting process is a lot more… icky. In my opinion, I’m all for
it. I think it’s a nice way to return a body to nature and in an elegant way, let
them live on. Just so long as we don’t turn their bodies directly into food: I draw the
line at Soylent Green. I kind of glossed over the specifics on what
happens to your decomposing, rotting flesh after you’re done with it… Luckily for you,
Trace explains all that down here. What are your thoughts on human composting?
Would you do it? I know I would, if I didn’t already have plans to shoot myself into space.
Let us know in the comments and I’ll see you next time on DNews.

100 thoughts on “Can We Compost Dead Bodies?

  1. I would love for my body to be compost 😀 I always said I want to be buried in a box that will break down so my body can biodegrade in nature to give back to it.

  2. Go for it I say it should be leagal and if it is by the time I die I will change my plans from artificial diamond to humus

  3. I do understand it, and kind of agree with it, but i also think there is much more things we aren't recycling and composting that's less 'icky'.

  4. Has anyone ever heard of The Capsula Mundi project?  It's kinda like the urn with seeds but it uses the compost technique instead and the tree roots wrap around you. If everyone did this, it would create a forest.  I'd love to have that done to me when I die.

  5. I'd totally do it! I plan on dedicating my life towards helping animals and the environment, what better way to continue doing that into my death?

  6. there are a few companies around the world that will cremate you and then extract the carbon and compress it, making a diamond in a lot of colors you can choose from.

  7. When i'm done with my first body I (not a typo) will likely bury the organic parts and sell the rest for scrap  . Except for a molar which I will flash freeze to keep my original genetic code on record in case i get bored and want to make organic copies of myself or procreate in the far future with unedited and uncorrupted DNA.

  8. Can we give this guy some different types of reports to cover. Every time he is doing it I am somewhat repulsed.  Not to say there is anything wrong with this guy, Just the things he covers.

  9. I my home town in Saudi Arabia we bury our dead in just a piece of clothe, nature will decompose the body in no time, and after few generations ( like a 100 years or so) the same spot will be used for the same person again, saving space and helping nature, flowers and shrubs do grow over some graves, I just think it's kinda cool.

  10. Yaay, it feels good to be following this project since the beginning and finally seen it spread like that. If you guys want more information about this look up for the Urban death project, it's a pretty cool project they are working on, you can also find stuff at the order of good death.

  11. I was thinking I might donate by body to science when I die instead of wasting it. But composting definitely seems like a rad alternative for people who don't want their cadavers gazed at and prodded. I don't see why it isn't legal.

  12. i'm in preference of being scrapped and scattered in a forest myself, i would skip the scrapping, but i wouldn't want predators to easily equate my meat to a human.

  13. You know what I want my dead body to be like? A tree. I want my body to decompose, and turn into a tree. That's it. That's all.

  14. I was actually planning on not going into a coffin when I die.. for the same reason – giving back to the earth

  15. i say strip the body for all the stuff that can be used again and compost the rest. what do i care. i wont be using it anymore.

  16. Might as well, when i die i'm not going anywhere but the ground. Although it would be ironic if they tree I help grow is cut down and turned into a bible xD one last slap to the face x)

  17. Why not feed your corpse to a bunch of flesh-eating Dermestid beetles? That'd certainly get the job done a lot quicker and the castings would probably still be quite nutrient rich. Then you could desiccate the remaining bones and then grind them into bone meal. Combine the two products and you'd get a pretty awesome human humus.

  18. I definitely would if it's legal when I die.

    When I talk with other people about death and what happens to you after you die I always say "I really don't care what happens to me after I die, I'm gone when I'm dead, so you could throw me in the compost for all I care"

    And I think I'm actually serious when I say that. I want to be a part of the circle of life.

  19. One of my theories about what happens after death involves being part of a bigger system that has been set from the beginning of life, If you alter the process and somehow you preserve consciousness after dieying then you won't enter the system. I'll preffer to be burried naked in a forest or someplace where I got born because that's how it was suppoused to be and maybe as well as there is a system for living things there is a system for dead things or things that are no longer alive.

  20. I'm hoping to come back as a zombie, and begin the zombie apocalypse. So, no compost needed. 😛 

    But seriously, sounds like a very good idea to me.

  21. Idea for an episode: Why is the USA the only UN country, along with Somalia, to not sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Why have they chosen not to sign?

  22. I was planning on burying my parent's ashes under a tree when they die. I'll be all for this, if they allow me to claim the humus and place it on my backyard.

  23. As a straight guy, Julian, you are becoming more attractive. Whatever you're doing, keep it up. Despite being superficial, on a video show, the shallow amongst us are going to care.

  24. I love this, I don't understand why we waste to much time and effort on dogmatic endeavors. For example, many states use drugs to carry out the death sentence creating all kinds of controversy about whether the drug maker should be supplying the drugs and if the medical practitioner administering it is violating their oath. Simple human solution, stick a needle in their arm and let them slowly bleed to death, they just start feeling cold and go to sleep… Maybe they can watch porn while it happens… Idk. And why are we wasting their organs, it's not respectful to waste someone's value. Here's grandpa's money, common let's be respectful and burn it. Ya, doesn't make sense.

    And we should be eating our pets.

  25. I want every part of my dead body to go to the best possible use. My organs donated, and the rest to be used to grow agricultural produce.

  26. Natural burial is the best way: just dig a hole, then put the in-embalmed body in it, and the body will compost if 6 month.That's all.

  27. should we not have the right to say what we want done with us after death i for one would love to be one with the earth

  28. My first choice has always been that a local community of coyotes accompanied by a few crows and some bugs have a nice meal or two on my tab. Seeing how this is probably illegal and no one I know would be comfortable arranging that, becoming compost is the next best. Currently the "ash-tree" thingy is my top legal option. I guess I should try to stick around until the better options become legally available. 🙂

  29. I would totally do this. When I die, I want it to be as green as possible. It's super important to me that I don't get embalmed or buried in a regular casket. "From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity."

  30. I just want my body dumped somewhere and left for nature. because it's fucking natural and I'll take less time to get rid of my body.

  31. I want my body to be of help to science! how you ask? basically signing my body up for the craziest stuff possible all in the name of science. heck i'll even send my body to space. oh yea… if the filters break on mars… one drop is all it takes.

  32. I heard of a story a long time ago about a body being cut up and then thrown in a compost pile, the hummus was used to grow weed

  33. I'm all for it. Once I die i'm not going to be in my body anymore, it doesn't matter to me what happens to it, so if it can have some sort of helpful impact, i'm all for it. 🙂

  34. What I would write on my will…
    "Use my organs and blood to potentially save lives, cremate the remains then use the rest for BIOS-Urn and grow a tree from remains"

  35. I'd do it for sure. It would be good for the earth and definitely wouldn't hurt a dead person. Use it to plant food!

  36. Of course we can compost dead bodies. We can also make a new food to feed mankind from dead bodies; Soil-ant Green! Remember the old movie titled: "1984"?

  37. This makes me much less afraid of death…in fact it makes me welcome it. I'll live my life first of course, lol.

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