Time was, in the golden age of railroad travel, you could go down the aisle to the toilet, use it, and flush it, and when the little cup at the bottom of the toilet opened, you could see the roadbed running by underneath the train. Yes, the toilet’s contents got dumped right onto the tracks, and yes, that’s why the railroads all had signs that read, “Please do not flush the toilet while the train is standing in the station.”
That’s not what happens on planes. So here is the answer to that oft-asked question, “What happens to human waste on airplanes?”
Airlines use the same basic systems that RVs and Porta Potties do: chemical toilets. The airline versions are a bit more high-tech, but what you leave behind goes into a tank filled with a chemical solution. When the plane lands, the ground crew hooks the airline’s tank to a service vehicle, empties it, and sends the service vehicle to a waste-disposal site. The tank cannot be emptied while the plane is in the air.
You may have read some reports about folks in Leicester who saw blue ice falling from the skies. Apparently, the frozen blue waste was a chemical solution that leaked from the plane. But fear not: The leak likely came from the plane’s supply tank, not the toilet. Airplanes don’t dump waste mid-flight.
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(Photo: David Lentz/Getty Images)