Death – though heart-wrenching – can be beautiful. Its rituals can be meaningful, and disposition of the body can be gentle and natural.
Recompose is an ecological death care company based in Seattle, Washington. When we open in late 2020, Recompose will offer the service of natural organic reduction (NOR), where human bodies are converted into soil. We are building the Recompose model to be an alternative to the existing funeral industry, offering an authentic, participatory experience for families and a natural return to the earth for the dead.
Recompose is seeking an NOR Manager to manage its patent-pending system and the NOR process. Recompose’s technology is already built and well-tested, but it will need to be scaled when we first open for clients in November 2020, and we are committed to constant improvement and iteration. The NOR Manager will have a deep comfort around machinery, a curious and analytic mind, and an understanding of the natural cycles. The role requires working with large machines that don’t come with a traditional service contract – in large part, we are our own service contract. The NOR Manager will communicate directly with our manufacturers and work to solve immediate problems to ensure a safe and effective process. This person will also systematically test variations and suggest improvements to the system, helping us create the most efficient, repeatable, and scalable process possible. The NOR Manager will always keep safety as a primary consideration.
Natural organic reduction is a managed thermophilic biological process used to convert organic material, including human remains, into a more stable earthy organic material that is unrecognizable as human remains. The NOR Manager will be responsible for creating and maintaining the conditions that cause beneficial microbes to thrive and result in a pathogen-free material that is safe for use on plants. The NOR Manager will also be responsible for careful tracking and recordkeeping of NOR data. A background in composting is not required, however, a comfort around decomposition and a willingness to learn are key. This person will ensure that the soil returned to families meets Recompose’s standards for quality and lacks any non-organic material; quality control of each batch will be part of the job.
The NOR Manager should be comfortable working with human bodies. This person will work with the Recompose Services Manager to ensure that all individuals and families have the best possible experience with Recompose. The NOR Manager should be passionate about helping to heal the environment through this work.
Manage Recompose equipment and process:
Facilitate the safe and successful conversion of bodies into soil on a daily basis.
Operate, monitor, and analyze the Recompose vessel system and ancillary equipment, continually finding opportunities to improve wherever possible.
Manage day-to-day activities, analyze statistics, read and write reports.
Make minor repairs to machinery without assistance and be able to determine when an industrial mechanic is necessary for larger repairs.
Work with the Services Manager, the Project Manager, and the COO to ensure that operations meet all city, state, federal, and funeral board regulations.
With the assistance of the Project Manager, source, purchase, and maintain equipment related to the NOR system.
Work with COO to review budgets and manage operating costs.
Follow all safety protocols and suggest new ones if appropriate.
Communicate across the team quickly and often to maintain smooth processes and excellent service to grieving families.
Support the Services Manager in providing respectful on-site flow, storage, and preparation of all bodies.
Continually look for opportunities to refine protocols with an eye toward future replication.
Manage the flow of materials:
With the assistance of the Project Manager and the COO, plan for and manage the flow and storage of all materials related to the NOR process (e.g. wood chips, straw, alfalfa, additional feedstock, compost, water, aeration.)
With the assistance of the Project Manager, source and negotiate purchasing contracts for feedstocks and other supplies.
Continually work to refine the feedstock recipe to ensure efficient reduction and finishing of material, improve the NOR process, and minimize material expenses.
Research alternative materials and sources for feedstock materials (such as local sourcing, purchasing from socially responsible businesses, and minimizing unnecessary waste) and continually look for opportunities to increase process sustainability.
Work with the Project Manager to refine process for screening soil for non-organics and recycling non-organics.
Work with the Services Manager and executive team to create protocols for returning finished soil to families.
Help maintain a clean and well-organized facility open to occasional press visits. When the Seattle facility opens, help maintain a facility appropriate for visiting families and public tours.
Other Duties and Responsibilities:
Troubleshoot, adjust, and replace electrical equipment such as batteries, control stations, fuses, motor starters, relays, switches, and timers.
Inspect, troubleshoot, repair, and/or replace mechanical components such as motors, reducers, drive chains, sprockets, pulleys, rollers, conveyor belts, and bearings.
Perform preventive maintenance inspections of equipment.
With the project manager and the executive team, collaborate on any training protocols and assist in training new staff.
3+ years of previous experience in operations, both in execution and process improvement. Ideally, some of this experience is in using and servicing mechanical equipment.
Outstanding problem-solving skills that can be applied to issues that arise.
Existing forklift operator certification(s), or ability to obtain required certifications.
Comfort with a significant amount of physical labor.
Comfort with handling human remains in various stages of decomposition.
Ability to self-start and work alone a significant amount of the time.
Resilience: ability to manage own emotions, demonstrate self-control under pressure or adversity, and practice self-care.
Flexibility: ability to multi-task, adapt to new situations and to change focus unexpectedly.
Commitment to working toward and advocating for climate healing, soil health, and environmental justice.
Commitment to working at a progressive company that explicitly works to be anti-racist. Recompose is committed to advocating and protecting the rights of people of color, religious minorities, and undocumented people.
Commitment to working at a progressive company that explicitly works to be feminist. Recompose is committed to advocating and protecting the rights of women, transgender people, and gender nonconforming people.
PLEASE ALSO TELL US IF YOU HAVE
Experience in process control, supply chain, and manufacturing processes.
Experience in scheduling and forecasting and/or monitoring and reporting.
Experience with composting and/or soil health.
Prior experience operating high capacity electric or LP gas forklifts.
Reasonable comfort speaking with families and the general public about the Recompose system and its operations.
Emotional generosity: ability and willingness to offer comfort and support to people in distress, whether clients or team members.
I/T experience using equipment software, databases, spreadsheets.
WORKING CONDITIONS AND PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS
Flexibility will be key especially in the first few years of operations. For the first few years, as we grow to capacity and hire staff, it’s likely that this exempt position will work some long weeks (~50 hours). Likewise, as we develop the on-site events programming and overall schedule, a lot of flexibility will be required. We have designed our benefits package to compensate for this expectation.
In the long run (3-5 years,) it is Recompose’s explicit goal to create an atmosphere where staff work 40-hour weeks and the life/work balance doesn’t just exist, but is celebrated.
In terms of physical requirements, this position must be able to lift 50 lbs. and move back and forth between different locations in a larger building several times daily. The work is physically demanding; this is not an office job, but involves servicing large equipment. As such, this role requires sufficient mobility to get to different parts of equipment for repairs.
This position will have regular exposure to dust and organic materials, including but not limited to alfalfa, straw, hay, sawdust, wood chips, and human remains.
Benefits: Significant yearly PTO; healthcare benefits for employee; 401k plan with partial employer match
Gary, I don't work for this company so I'm not familiar with their exact protocols. Washington State recently passed a law allowing composting and "wet cremation" as alternatives to burial and cremation for human remains. Recompose is regulated just like other companies that handle human remains are. If you search for "Urban Death Project" and "Recompose" you can find more information about the research behind composting human remains. The idea came out of research at Washington State University for on-farm composting of animal remains.