NASA: Video Reveals How International Space Station Astronauts Get Rid of Trash

Samantha Cristoforetti , an astronaut currently living on the station , showed a video about garbage disposal and explained how it’s done.


The International Space Station (ISS) , unlike practically all institutions with premises or offices on Earth , does not have municipal services to dispose of the garbage accumulated by its inhabitants. Because of this, astronauts from NASA  and other agencies aboard the ISS need another way to dispose of their waste, and that’s how it works.

Samantha Cristoforetti , an Australian astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA) who currently lives on the International Space Station since traveling in April, shared a new video through her Twitter account . In said sequence, she is shown how the ISS crew gets rid of the garbage present in this orbital base.

How do ISS astronauts dispose of garbage?

From what can be seen in the video, the method of removing solid debris from the International Space Station is the equivalent of throwing it out the window. However, unlike what happens on Earth , the garbage does not remain in space. Gravity ensures that instead of landing on a street, it quickly incinerates as it enters our planet’s atmosphere at high speed.

“In July we tested a new capability for the space station . Filled with dry rubbish and debris, this large dumpster was released from a depressurized airlock at the station and burned harmlessly in Earth’s atmosphere,” Cristoforetti mentioned in his tweet.

If you pay close attention to the video, you can see trash coming out of the station’s Bishop airlock at high speed. In addition, there is another video uploaded to YouTube where this process is shown in slow motion.

ISS space debris

The dumpsters for this gate were built by the Texas company Nanoracks and are designed to hold up to 600 pounds of waste. “Debris collection in space is a long-standing – though not publicly discussed – challenge on board the ISS . Four astronauts can generate up to 2,500 kg of garbage a year, or about two garbage cans a week. As we move into an era with more people living and working in space, this is a critical function just as it is for everyone at home ,” said Cooper Read , Bishop Airlock program manager for Nanoracks .

Before the Bishop airlock was deployed to the International Space Station , the trash inside this post was stacked on a cargo ship which was then sent into the Earth’s atmosphere to be incinerated. This new system allows astronauts to dispose of their garbage more regularly instead of piling it up inside the ISS .

“This successful test not only demonstrates the future of waste disposal for space stations , but also demonstrates our ability to leverage the ISS as a commercial technology testbed, providing critical insights into how we can prepare for the next phases of commercial destinations in low Earth orbit ,” said Amela Wilson , CEO of Nanoracks , after the airlock’s first use in July.