It's Now Legal in Oregon To Be Turned Into Compost After You Die

It's now legal to be turned into compost after you die in Oregon, a practice allowed in only two other states.

Human composting is part of a growing movement for greener funerals across the U.S., with Washington state the first to allow such burials, followed by Colorado.

House Bill 2574 was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday, adding natural organic reduction as an aftercare option. It will come into effect in July 2022.

The amendments explains: "'Natural organic reduction' means the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil."

The bill is now littered with the terms "reduced" and "reduction," covering the latest addition to the burial industry.

"'Reduced remains' means the remains of a human body after completion of reduction. 'Reduction' means alkaline hydrolysis, natural organic reduction and any other method of final disposition of human remains authorized by the State Mortuary and Cemetery Board," the bill now says.

The trend has taken off in recent years, with the aptly named Evergreen State leading the way in 2019, followed by the Centennial State this May.

Shortly after Washington's landmark bill became law in May 2020, Recompose, the first facility accepting human bodies for composting, opened in Seattle in December 2020.

Explaining the rationale behind the move towards greener aftercare, Recompose's website says: "Current funerary practices are environmentally problematic. Each year, 2.7 million people die in the U.S., and most are buried in a conventional cemetery or cremated.

"The environmental impacts of conventional burial and cremation are profound. In the United States, cemeteries take up 1 million acres of land, and caskets use 4 million acres of forest every year. The fossil fuel necessary for one year of cremations in North America could drive a car halfway to the sun.

"Human composting saves a metric ton of carbon dioxide per body when compared to conventional burial or cremation. That's equivalent to the CO2 emissions of 1,102 pounds of coal, driving 2,481 miles, or over 40 cylinders of propane."

We are so(il) grateful to the Oregonians who wrote letters of support, called their legislators, and testified on behalf of meaningful, earth-friendly death care. Creating the world we want to live in has always been communal work.

— Recompose | Ecological Death Care (@recomposelife) June 7, 2021

The $5,500 Recompose process takes around 30 days, and one human body produces "one cubic yard of soil."

The process begins with the "laying in" ceremony, where a body is placed inside a vessel surrounded by "wood chips, alfalfa and straw," while it is then covered with more "plant material."

This remains inside the vessel for around a month, as microbes break down the matter into "nutrient-dense soil."

After the 30-day window, the soil is removed and allowed to cure for between two and four weeks, at which point it can be used to "enrich conservation land, forests or gardens."

The trend for more environmentally friendly burials is taking off in the U.S., with more states exploring it as a viable option.

In New York, Assembly Member Amy Paulin is sponsoring Assembly Bill 1382, while in California, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia introduced Assembly Bill 2592, which would both legalize natural organic reduction if passed.

Stock image of hand holding soil.
Stock image of hand holding soil. You can now be legally turned into compost after you die in Oregon, the third state to allow the practice. filistimlyanin/Getty Images