My fiance just asked me if replicators got their matter by dereplicating human waste, and I realized I wasn't sure. Even after researching the matter, I can't find any concrete information. So where does the matter come from? Is it from recycled human waste, or is there some sort of energy-matter conversion involved?

  • I'd have to look it up, but the short answer, as I recall, is both. Waste products are converted into energy, and at least some of that energy is used by the replicators to create new matter. Apr 29, 2016 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


Assuming you're referring to TNG (onwards), Federation starships carry a feedstock of raw materials that can be easily converted into the widest possible range of substances by the replicator systems. Before this, starships (like the Enterprise NX-1 and Enerprise NCC-1701) used reclamation systems to process waste water back into potable water. There's no indication that any of the ships we see processed solid human waste back into food.

Per the TNG Technical Manual

In order to minimize replicator power requirements, raw stock for food replicators is stored in the form of a sterilized organic particulate suspension that has been formulated to statistically require the least quantum manipulation to replicate most finished foodstuffs


Material that cannot be directly recycled by mechanical or chemical means is stored for matter synthesis recycling. This is accomplished by molecular matrix replicators that actually dematerialize the waste materials and rematerialize them in the form of desired objects or materials stored in computer memory. While this process provides an enormous variety of useful items, it is very energy intensive and many everyday consumables (such as water and clothing) are recycled by less energy intensive mechanical or chemical means. Certain types of consumables (such as foodstuffs) are routinely recycled using matter replication because this results in a considerable savings of stored raw material

You can tell your fiance that human waste materials are generally stored and offloaded at Starbase (e.g. rather than being recycled) although such a thing is possible and almost certainly happens on long voyages where regular stops aren't feasible (e.g. Voyager).

For avoidance of doubt
Archer = Definitely drinking his own recycled urine
Kirk = Almost certainly drinking his own recycled urine
Picard = Definitely not drinking his own urine
Sisko = Almost certainly drinking his own recycled urine
Janeway = Almost certainly drinking her own recycled urine

  • Maybe drinking Sisko's recycled urine is why Worf is more badass in DS9? It's probably more Klingon way... Jul 30, 2020 at 7:21
  • I agree with the very detailed answer above, but we can now update it to cover the years that Discovery is set in: youtu.be/Tn49wvoXr3g
    – Folk
    Jan 5, 2022 at 19:38
  • @Folk - He might be lying to make a point though
    – Valorum
    Jan 5, 2022 at 19:42

Food and item replicators in the various Star Trek series use waste materials (garbage and human waste) to create food and items

  • 1
    Hi there! Do you have a source for that, that you could edit in? (note that an earlier answer provided some evidence towards the "no")
    – Jenayah
    Jan 20, 2019 at 16:58
  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. You should take the tour for a better understanding of how to write good answers. It is preferred if an answer can cite sources, or link to supporting material, especially if a canonical source can be found.
    – DavidW
    Jan 20, 2019 at 17:13

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