Human composting a new business opportunity in Oregon

The Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board hasn’t received any applications to start a human composting facility

A container of compost produced from human remains is shown at Recompose, a company that composts human remains into soil, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Kent, Wash., south of Seattle. Earlier in September, Colorado became the second state after Washington to allow human body composting, and Oregon will allow the practice beginning next July. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Elizabeth Fournier thought there’d be a rush of people interested in starting natural organic reduction businesses now that the practice of “human composting” in Oregon is legal. But that has not been the case. 

“There hasn’t been one business in Oregon, which has come forward and tried to receive a license for this. And that’s amazing because we’re so ready for this,” said Fournier, who owns Cornerstone Funeral Services in Boring. 

Her business has been working with Oregonians who want to have their bodies composted. She helps coordinate with businesses that offer the service in Washington and she was the funeral director for what she believes was the first natural organic reduction conducted in Washington. 

She is on the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board and on the smaller advisory board for overseeing natural organic reduction in Oregon.

After seeing the success of natural organic reduction in Washington, and after helping so many families who are interested in this type of after-life plan, she said she’s surprised more people aren’t investing in the business opportunity immediately. 

Some people are asking her why she doesn’t begin the practice, but Fournier said she’s already busy enough with the funeral services she currently offers. 

Natural organic reduction, or “human composting” as some call it, became legal in Oregon on Jan. 1. A similar law took effect in Washington in 2020. Fournier said there are four licensed facilities in Washington and three of them are operating. 

Colorado also legalized human body composting in 2021. 

Fournier said people interested in starting the business in Colorado made trips to Washington to see how it’s done. She’d like to see Oregonians do the same thing. 

“There’s no reason to re-create the wheel,” she said. “There are models, if anybody has any interest. The Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board is ready to help people send them some links and get them going,” she said. 

Just like with funeral homes and cremation businesses, the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board will hold licenses for businesses that offer natural organic reduction. Fournier said the board still needs to make some decisions and put rules in place on the practice. 

“They have to know things such as if somebody says, ‘Hey, I want Brother Bill’s leg bone before the natural organic reduction happens.’ We have to compost Brother Bill’s leg with that and then they can have the compost after the fact,” she explained.

For now, if Oregonians are hoping to have their body composted, Fournier said they’ll need to look out of state to find the service. She said Oregonians can contact any funeral provider in the state and they can help people access services across the state border. 

KOIN 6 News covered human composting when Oregon legalized the practice in June 2021. At the time, Recompose, one of the pioneering human composting companies in Washington, said it plans to open a location in Oregon within the next few years. KOIN tried contacting Recompose for an update on their plans in Oregon, but did not receive a response.