SALEM, Ore — Oregon is now the third state in the US to legalize human composting. Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 2574 into law on Tuesday, which will add the process known as natural organic reduction to the approved methods for death care in the state.
Rep. Pam Marsh from southern Jackson County, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Brian Clem, said she decided to sponsor the bill because her constituents are interested in alternative after-death options.
“What becomes of our bodies after life is going to be a question for all of us, or at least for the people we leave behind. It’s not easy to think about death, but it can be really comforting to have the opportunity to make decisions we feel good about. HB 2574 ensures we have another safe, proven choice for those who want it,” Rep Marsh said.
Natural organic reduction is a process by which human remains are covered with natural materials like straw and wood chips, allowing microbes to begin accelerated decomposition of the body. After four to six weeks, the remains are converted to an organic compound that is essentially soil and can be used to fuel plant growth.
The bill also clarifies rules surrounding alkaline hydrolysis, a similar process known as aqua cremation.
Marsh said that her office worked with the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board to reconcile the new processes with existing death care laws. She indicated that she supports the method as a sustainable and safe alternative to existing methods like burial and cremation — arguing that the former can leach chemicals into the soil, while the latter contributes to carbon emissons.
The law goes into effect July 1, 2022. Washington state legalized composting human remains in 2020 and Colorado did so earlier this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.