49

Even if the society in Star Trek has evolved into a cashless state, that still leaves the matter of stools and other bodily excretions (not sweat or blood) to deal with.

Where does that all faecal matter and urine go?

Having not seen any depiction of toilets or water closets in any of the films or TV series, there has to be a way to deal with this basic bodily function. They're not the Brady Bunch after all.

They eat fine and drink plenty of tea from the replicators. And that Neelix fellow on Voyagar sure cooks up exotic meals. All that has to be handled in some hygienic manner. It's not like they stand around the transport room and have their bowels expunged into space. Do they?

  • 8
    this would have to be an especially important consideration with a crew full of different species all sampling one another's cuisines. – JustJeff Jan 22 '11 at 23:02
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    How many television shows and movies have shown any sort of toilets? There was one scene in the first season of Babylon 5 where Sinclair and Garibaldi were having a brief conversation in the men's room, and that's all I remember. – David Thornley Jan 25 '11 at 2:57
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    When I was a callow youth, I thought that in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ humans had evolved beyond the need to physically expel waste, because you never saw a bathroom in the show. – Paul D. Waite Jun 29 '11 at 18:42
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    Fun fact, the writers addressed the complete missing of toilets or bathrooms in the series in First Contact: "I've gotta take a leak." - "A leak? I'm not detecting a leak." - "Don't you people from the 24th century ever pee?" – Bobby Jul 21 '12 at 21:24
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    "Where does all that fecal matter go?" It was compressed and spoon-fed to the fans in the form of "Threshold" and "The Outrageous Okona". – lunchmeat317 Dec 15 '14 at 15:14

10 Answers 10

50

The best (and I think only) "in-show" reference to this is in an Enterprise episode called Breaking the Ice. The crew records a series of answers for school children in Ireland and one of the questions is "When you flush the toilet [on the Enterprise], where does it go?" Captain Archer tells Engineer Trip Tucker to answer the question, which he reluctantly does, saying (not verbatim) that waste is broken down into its constituant molecules and recycled as anything required, namely boots, uniforms, etc. (Presumably at that point they don't get to make it into anything edible. Food is indeed mentioned later as being stocked and "natural.")

By TNG era, as Zypher points out, the breaking down of matter is most likely atomic (literally pulverizing the icky argument) and food can be replicated as well, or a reasonably close facsimile thereof. Table waste was also likewise disposed of (there's a mention in DS9).

  • 7
    There are multiple episodes showing table waste being returned to the replicator, where it seems to be re-absorbed, including the plate. – blueberryfields Jan 28 '11 at 19:06
  • @blueberryfields: I suddenly feel sorry for the props guy who had to clean the set every shoot if they missed... – MPelletier Jan 28 '11 at 20:39
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    I don't get what the problem is. If the replicator can rip apart atoms, and possibly even more into particles, then it really doesn't matter? Dead bodies could be replicator food, and turned into real food or some other material. – Lee Louviere Feb 17 '12 at 14:37
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    @MPelletier - I guess we shouldn't tell them what the stuff farmers put on their crops is made from, then. – Periata Breatta Sep 4 '16 at 23:19
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    @LeeLouviere I would assume that's where most dead bodies go. VIP's get a ceremony and a torpedo launch, but the remains of red shirts ? I think that is a new question... – MarsJarsGuitars-n-Chars Mar 1 '18 at 20:22
37

According to the ST:TNG technical manual sections 13.4 and 13.5 wastewater is reclaimed by the replicator system, although they will use up their stock of fresh source material first and only dive into the reclaimed material in emergency situations.

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    They end up eating their own poop and pee? – Eight Days of Malaise Jan 22 '11 at 20:33
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    @Eight Days: If you follow it far enough through the ecological cycles, we all do. It may give an ‘ick’ moment when you first realise it, but that’s how things are… – PLL Jan 22 '11 at 23:01
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    this is also similar to the what the fremen wear in dune. – Sean Tilson Jan 23 '11 at 1:28
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    @RoguePlanetoid: So when they get a glass of water, what happens? They beam the water in the replicated glass? I thought latinum was just a one-of-a-kind unreplicatable compound. – MPelletier Jan 26 '11 at 21:52
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    @Eight Days - keep in mind that the replicator breaks stuff down to the molecular level. So what was once "poop and pee" is now nothing more than carbon, nitrogen, and various other molecular substances. At that point, it's no more poop and pee than a pile of bricks is a house. – eidylon Nov 3 '11 at 4:28
11

Easy answer:Raw material for the replicators.

5

In Star Trek V when Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are in the brig, Kirk takes a seat on what appears to be a toilet. The only reason I believe it is a toilet is because there is signage saying something like "do not use while in Spacedock." (What else could it be?)

While I agree with the above answers, I assume also that the designers of that brig didn't want prisoner poo to be "reclaimed."

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    Why would prisoner poo be treated differently? At the end of the day, atoms are atoms. – Paul Wagland Jan 26 '11 at 8:01
  • Oh, nice observation. I'm guessing it's an in-joke, a reference to commercial planes which might have a similar notice, but obviously for airports. And the reason why they don't want you to poop in there while at the airport is that they are draining the waste, and nobody wants it on their head during the operation. – MPelletier Jan 26 '11 at 10:59
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    Planes don't have that notice, but trains certainly used to. – DJClayworth May 19 '11 at 16:20
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    It seems silly to have a sign like that in the brig. I could understand crew obeying a sign like that, but why would prisoners give a shit? – Erick Robertson Oct 31 '11 at 11:13
  • @PaulWagland possibly in case the prisoner poo and pee needed to be analysed for security purposes, such as if the prisoner had taken drugs or stored contraband where the sun doesn't shine. – pleurocoelus Apr 17 '17 at 11:52
4

As a side reference, to support most of these comments, in one episode of Voyager (Year of Hell), when they are running very low on supplies, Chakotay is told to recycle something he replicated for Janeway. The implication of this is that they have the facilities to recycle material for the replicators, and it would be logical to assume that human waste - as well as any other waste - could also be included in this.

Of course, no details are given as to how material is recycled, or how the replicators work and use their resources to make anything.

  • Sorry - watching Warehouse 13, where she is playing a Jane!!! – Schroedingers Cat Nov 3 '11 at 19:16
3

In the documentary Journey's End: The Saga of Star Trek - The Next Generation, Johnathan Frakes actually answers this question by pointing out that only 1 bathroom is ever on an actual map in one of the props.

So, if you wanna be technical, there was only 1 bathroom on the Enterprise.

  • So why do you never see a queue of 100 people waiting to get in there near the start of a shift? – Schroedingers Cat Nov 2 '11 at 9:53
  • Well the queue is there and it's not there at the same time. We just haven't observed it yet ;) – OghmaOsiris Nov 2 '11 at 12:57
  • Tiny transporter systems embedded in the uniforms negate the need for the crew to physically go to the restroom. All waste products are beamed directly to the toilet, no fuss, no muss! – Beofett Nov 2 '11 at 13:25
  • @Beofett It also makes julienne fries. – OghmaOsiris Nov 2 '11 at 13:55
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    or there's 1 bathroom per section, with each map only representing a small section of the ship. And there's always the option of multiple toilets per bathroom, which is common in office buildings as well. – jwenting Nov 2 '11 at 14:05
1

It's natural to assume that it's decomposed in the replicator system, but in DS9, there are a few mentions of Rom cleaning the waste disposal systems, which clashes a bit with that explanation.

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    There would be parts of the system that needed cleaning - transfer to the replicator reclamation unit, for example. – Schroedingers Cat Nov 2 '11 at 9:52
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    It is possible that the Cardassians had a different waste management system than normal Federation facilities. – Jack B Nimble Nov 2 '11 at 16:57
1

Waste in the disposal unit would most likely be flushed to a single location via traditional plumbing and atomised in bulk at a set time each day, which would be more energy efficient than using replicator technology with each flush, as well as account for the need to clean them.

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    How would adding long pipes in a ship make more sense than using transporter system? – user16696 Jun 11 '15 at 14:11
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    "which would be more energy efficient than using replicator technology with each flush" According to what evidence? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 11 '15 at 18:04
1

According to The Making of Star Trek the original Kirk era Enterprise NCC-1701 had a "waste and water reconversion" area in the secondary hull.

0

As MPelletier points out, waste handling (any part of the issue from restroom facilities to disposition of the waste material) never got so much as a mention on-screen outside of the school children's Q&A sequence in ST:Enterprise, although I vaguely recall at least one perhaps ambiguous reference to "waste extraction" in DS9.

Given that the ISS reclaims water from human waste and, in nature, everything is ultimately recycled, it's reasonable to assume that in the Star Trek universe, all of the waste would be reclaimed in some fashion. Even on a large vessel like the TOS Enterprise, space is constrained, so it doesn't make sense to store months worth of provisions if you have the means to implement an alternative approach. In TOS, there is only mention of "food processors", not clearly specifying how food selections are prepared (whether synthesized or drawn from stores), so no indication if there is a "closed system". TNG-era replicator technology, however, would clearly suggest that waste processing would be like a replicator run in reverse, so waste handling could be part of a closed system with food synthesis.

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