What is a Waste Pipe?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
A washing machine with a waste pipe.
A washing machine with a waste pipe.

A waste pipe is a pipe which is designed to carry away liquid waste, with the exception of sewage, which is handled by different plumbing for reasons of environmental health. In homes, waste pipes drain washers, sinks, dishwashers, and other plumbed fixtures. In other facilities, waste pipes can handle a wide variety of liquid waste, again with the exception of sewage. Sewage is a special subset of liquid waste which needs to be handled with care because it can contain microorganisms which may cause disease.

Copper became a popular material for creating waste pipes as people grew more adept at metalworking.
Copper became a popular material for creating waste pipes as people grew more adept at metalworking.

A wide variety of materials can be used to make waste pipes. Historically, wood was used, and in some communities, examples of wooden waste pipes can still be seen, particularly bamboo pipes in parts of China and Japan. As people grew more adept at metalworking, materials like lead and copper began to be used, while today plumbers tend to prefer plastics. Plastics are cheap, easy to work with, and very easy to bend or join with elbows so that they can fit into snug spaces.

Toilet waste pipes are treated differently than waste pipes connected to other appliances.
Toilet waste pipes are treated differently than waste pipes connected to other appliances.

The waste pipe may be rigid or flexible, depending on how it is used; flexible waste pipes are sometimes used, for example, to drain washing machines into large sinks, allowing people to plumb in washers without having to make substantial changes to the plumbing. The same technique is also used sometimes for dishwashers, with connections to the sink for fresh water and a flexible pipe placed in the sink to drain water when the dishwasher is in operation.

Waste pipes may be found fixed to dishwashers.
Waste pipes may be found fixed to dishwashers.

If a waste pipe is going to be used to handle waste which could be contaminated with chemicals, as might be seen in a facility like a photo lab, it may need to drain to separate holding containers for safety. This is designed to keep dangerous chemicals out of wastewater treatment plants, with companies which specialize in that kind of waste collecting it and processing it. Likewise, a toilet waste pipe is also treated differently from waste pipes attached to other plumbing fixtures.

Municipal water treatment plants pipe in millions of gallons of wastewater a day, decontaminate it, and release it into the environment or recycle it.
Municipal water treatment plants pipe in millions of gallons of wastewater a day, decontaminate it, and release it into the environment or recycle it.

Typically, a waste pipe is designed to drain to a larger pipe which collects wastewater for treatment. The water is run through a wastewater treatment plant to pull out impurities before being released. Cleaned wastewater may be discharged in the natural environment, used for landscaping, or reused in industrial processes where absolutely clean water is not necessarily required. Some industrial facilities even have their own treatment plants to process wastewater.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

seag47

I assumed that sewage drained through the same waste pipe as the other fluids coming out of the house. I’m glad to know that I was wrong.

I can hear water glugging in my bathtub and bathroom sink if my washer is going at the time. I have had this fear of sewage suddenly shooting up from the drain and covering me while I’m taking a shower. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Also, I have a small ditch where used water drains through a pipe in my back yard. I always thought it very gross that sewage would be draining into the open yard, but now I know that it doesn’t. I won’t be afraid to walk by that area anymore.

shell4life

I always thought that something was wrong with my pipes, because the sink gurgles and spits up water whenever the washer or the dishwasher is running. After reading this, I know that they are actually set up for this to happen.

Whenever I wash a load of clothes, at certain intervals, I hear a loud gurgling in the sink. If I happen to be running water into the sink at the time, it doesn’t drain when I turn off the faucet.

The same thing happens when the dishwasher is operating. I can actually see water rising up from below the drain into the sink.

It’s good to know that my pipes aren’t broken or stopped up. I don’t need to call a plumber!

kylee07drg

I live out in the country, and our waste pipe drains into the yard. I can walk by the ditch where the water from the washer comes out, and I can smell the wonderful aroma of laundry detergent.

I’m pretty sure that apartments and homes in the city are not set up to drain on the property. They probably go to the treatment facilities. We have no such place anywhere near here, so out into the yard it goes.

The area around where the waste pipe drains is very green. I guess the detergent doesn’t hurt the grass and weeds. That makes me feel better about having to drain my liquid waste outdoors.

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    • A washing machine with a waste pipe.
      A washing machine with a waste pipe.
    • Copper became a popular material for creating waste pipes as people grew more adept at metalworking.
      Copper became a popular material for creating waste pipes as people grew more adept at metalworking.
    • Toilet waste pipes are treated differently than waste pipes connected to other appliances.
      Toilet waste pipes are treated differently than waste pipes connected to other appliances.
    • Waste pipes may be found fixed to dishwashers.
      Waste pipes may be found fixed to dishwashers.
    • Municipal water treatment plants pipe in millions of gallons of wastewater a day, decontaminate it, and release it into the environment or recycle it.
      Municipal water treatment plants pipe in millions of gallons of wastewater a day, decontaminate it, and release it into the environment or recycle it.