Breaking News
More () »

No, toilet waste is not dumped from planes mid-flight

Toilet waste goes into a holding tank on the plane. It’s impossible for the tanks to be dumped mid-flight because the valves are located outside the plane.

The VERIFY team recently published a story confirming planes are not actually spraying chemicals over unsuspecting people around the world. 

After we published that article, several VERIFY readers told us they heard planes actually do dump toilet waste mid-flight. Some readers said they had heard that rumor for years and wondered if it was actually true.

To find out, we went to the experts and asked if it is a routine practice for airline pilots to dump toilet waste mid-flight.


Is toilet waste dumped from planes mid-flight?



This is false.

No, toilet waste is not dumped from planes mid-flight.


“Many people are of the assumption that when a person onboard an airplane flushes the toilet, the contents dump overboard. This is not the case,” the Federal Aviation Administration told VERIFY in an email.

Here’s what actually happens after you go to the bathroom on a plane.

Since the early 1980s, planes have been using toilets that have a vacuum toilet system. This means a pneumatic vacuum is used to pull the contents inside the toilet bowl down. Boeing filed a patent for this kind of system in 1976

The waste is flushed into a holding tank, the patent explained. A diagram of the system shows the toilet, drain and a type of pipe that carries the contents into a holding tank located on the plane. 

Credit: U.S. Patent 4,063,315
A diagram of the system shows the toilet, drain and a type of pipe that carries the contents into a holding tank located on the plane.

After the plane lands, the holding tank is drained at the airport, where staff has to follow environmental guidelines that outline how and where the wastewater is disposed of, according to guidelines published for the Denver International Airport. This YouTube video from Vestergaard Company, a company that manufactures vacuum toilets, shows how the contents from the tanks are moved into specialty lavatory service trucks at an airport.

The FAA said while in flight, it is actually physically impossible for the pilots to dump waste because the valve is usually located on the exterior of the aircraft. 

But, even though pilots don’t have the capability to dump those tanks from the air, that doesn’t mean the tanks or valves don’t occasionally spring a leak. 

The holding tanks in a plane have a dark blue chemical added to the water that deodorizes the water and breaks down solid wastes. These chemicals are similar to what is used in recreational vehicles (RV) and camper holding tanks. 

If the plane’s tank or drain tube has a leak, some of the blue-colored water may leak out, and at high altitudes where the air temperature can be between -40°to -60°F, the water instantly freezes, the FAA told VERIFY.

When that happens, the frozen ice crystals are referred to as “blue ice.” But, the FAA says, people shouldn’t be concerned about blue ice falling to the earth’s surface, because if the chunks were to fall from an aircraft from 30,000 feet, the ice would break up and melt long before it hit the ground. 

So, we can VERIFY, toilet waste is not dumped from planes mid-flight.

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

Follow Us

Want something VERIFIED?

Text: 202-410-8808

Before You Leave, Check This Out