What is Replating?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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Replating is a concept popularized by an organization called Language in Common. According to the organization, one participates in replating by placing unwanted leftovers, usually in a secure container, on top of a garbage can or food waste bin so that other people can make use of them. Urban areas are the most suitable environment for replating, since they ensure a steady flow of traffic to potentially eat the food.

Language in Common stresses that it did not invent replating, it merely came up with a term to describe the behavior so that a public discussion about it could begin. Members of the San Francisco, California based group had noticed people strategically placing leftovers in convenient spots when they could not find someone to give the food to. They thought that the behavior was interesting, and that it touched upon a number of important social issues. As a result, they started a website to define the term and diffuse the idea through global culture.


In order for replating to work, several conditions must exist. The first is that the leftovers must be substantial. Scraps are not suitable for replating, while half a pizza or a sizable share of a helping of pasta is. The second is that the food must be obviously placed in a high traffic area, so that it will not go bad. Presumably, members of the community in which the food has been left also need to act responsibly, discarding the food if it does not appear safe to eat.

Some people think of replating as a form of activism, since it can put food into the hands of the hungry. Talking about the idea, however, is almost more revolutionary, since it gets people thinking about wasted food, hunger issues, and rapidly filling landfills. Language in Common encourages people to “spread the word” both to encourage replating and to start a global discussion about it, because leaving leftovers out for other people to eat presumably leads people to question why people should be eating food scavenged from garbage cans in the first place.

Some criticisms of replating have been raised, ranging from the idea that people might poison the food to questioning whether or not replating is truly activism. Since replating is intended to be the start of a conversation, critique is welcomed, especially by people who make food on their critique, and use it as a starting point for bigger and better things. Although replating will certainly not put an end to world hunger, it might encourage a global discussion about creative ways to get food into the hands of people who need it.


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