Seattle’s Recompose is raising more cash as human composting startup plans locations in other states

Recompose vessels are seen in the Greenhouse, the company’s facility in Kent, Wash., where human bodies are turned into soil. (Sabel Roizen Photo via Recompose)

Recompose is rebounding after some trying times during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Seattle-based startup which turns human remains into soil is looking to raise $15 million in a new funding round as more states pass legislation allowing its process, opening the way for future facilities and growth.

Founded by Katrina Spade in 2017 as an alternative to conventional burial and cremation methods, Recompose had big plans last year to build out its first location in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood. But the pandemic spooked investors and doubled projected costs for turning a large warehouse into a flagship space. Spade told The Seattle Times last summer that she thought her dream might be over.

The company instead opened a smaller location in Kent, Wash., in December called the Greenhouse. The location is big enough to house 10 Recompose vessels where the transformation from human remains to soil takes place.

Recompose uses natural organic reduction technology to convert remains over about a 30-day period. The body is placed in a receptacle with organic matter such as straw and wood chips and natural processes break everything down into about a cubic yard of soil which is returned to families.

Placing the body in the vessel is a called the “laying‑in” and right now families can only join via streaming video. Recompose hopes to have families attend in person at future locations.

“At the Recompose Greenhouse, we are learning more about how best to carry out human composting before propagating our systems to other locations and, eventually, around the world,” the company said in a January website post.

A dummy is shown in a cradle with plant material in front of a Recompose vessel. (Sabel Roizen Photo via Recompose)

In the time since opening, Recompose has accepted more than 50 bodies and transformation has been completed on 25. Recompose also has nearly 800 Precompose members who can make payments starting at $25 per month to arrange for future death care through the service. The company has grown to 15 employees and is hiring.

Washington was the first state in the U.S. to legalize human composting when Gov. Jay Islee signed it into law in May 2019. Colorado made the process legal with HB21-006 in May and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed HB 2574 this week. California is apparently going to be next.

All of that legislation has Recompose looking at expansion.

RELATED: Cremation services startup Solace raises $1.7M as interest grown in tech to disrupt funeral industry

The new funding will be used to open an additional Seattle location in early 2022, a Colorado location in mid 2022, and an additional West Coast location, the company said on its website.

“It was a great honor to begin our operations in late 2020, after years of preparation,” Spade said, adding in May that passage of the bill in Colorado “speaks to the momentum of this movement across the country.”

Investors include early supporters who have added to their initial investments, clients of an array of financial advisors, individuals, investment groups, donor-advised funds and family foundations. The company says its current funding round is open to accredited investors at a $250,000 minimum.

An increasing number of startups are using technology and innovation to bring change to the $20 billion funeral industry. Portland-based Solace is bringing digital convenience to the process of planning and facilitating cremation services. A team from the University of Washington called AfterLife Listings recently won the $25,000 grand prize in a student startup competition for its idea to simplify planning and transactions related to burial plots.

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