Where Does the Waste Go After You Flush on an Airplane?
While some people love flying on an airplane, and others dose themselves on Dramamine (motion sickness medicine) and pray for a long nap, mostly everyone can agree that using the bathroom mid-air is not a pleasant experience.
Locking yourself in a small closet on a plane going hundreds of miles per hour can be a stressful ordeal.
With hundreds of people having access to the same tiny restroom, it leaves many on the plane wondering where the waste goes after everyone, well… goes.
Many falsely believe a trap door opens up and the waste just falls on unsuspecting people down on the ground. It turns out there's a much more complex system in place.
The modern airplane toilet system that is still in use today was created by inventor James Kemper in the '70s. The first wildly noisy vacuum system appeared in a Boeing plane in 1982.
So, what happens when you flush? According to Gizmodo, "Pressing the flush button opens a valve in the bottom of the bowl, exposing the contents to a pneumatic vacuum. That vac sucks the load down the plane's sewer line into a 200-gallon holding tank — vapors and all."
The system relies on a "Teflon-like non-stick coating around the inside of the bowl" to assist in the transfer of waste.
The waste then "remains in the tank for the duration of the flight." Once the plane reaches the ground, it's "vacuumed out by crews."
To avoid any mishaps in air, "an exterior latch" on the holding tank ensures the waste doesn't fall onto unsuspecting folks down below.
So the next time you're on a plane, you can be sure that when you gotta go, it's not going to fall out of the sky.