Floating ‘Trash Wheels’ Clean Up 1 Million Pounds of Debris in Baltimore’s Harbor

harbor cleanup water pollution

Image via Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel sounds like cute cartoon characters, but they are actually garbage fighting machines that are helping clean up Baltimore's Inner Harbor. These solar- and hydro-powered trash interceptors have effectively been combatting water pollution since 2014.

The concept was first suggested by local sailor and engineer John Kellett, who eventually gained the support of non-profit Water Partnership of Baltimore to execute his plan. Solar panels and river currents turn the wheel, which activates a conveyor belt. The trash gets pulled in by floating containment booms and lifted by rotating forks onto the conveyor belt. It's then deposited in a dumpster, which is emptied when full.

In action since 2014, Mr. Trash Wheel's googly eyes have gained him quite a following since he was implemented. He even has a Twitter account and t-shirts. In fact, he's such a success that Kellet and the Water Partnership of Baltimore raised funds for a second, smaller assistant named Professor Trash Wheel. She was launched in December 2016 in a different part of the Inner Harbor. All told, these garbage collectors have hauled more than a million pounds of trash since being installed.

harbor cleanup water pollution

Image via John Kellet, Clearwater Mills and Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

Most of what's collected are plastic bags, cigarette butts, plastic and glass bottles, and polystyrene containers. It's important to remember that the majority of this trash comes from people throwing garbage on the ground, which is then carried into the river during storms.

And while Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel are cute and cuddly, they are only one method of obtaining the Water Partnership's goal of making the harbor swimmable by 2020. Educating the public and changing cultural habits will be key to ensuring Baltimore's waters remain free and clear of trash.

Water Partnership of Baltimore: Website | Facebook | Instagram 
h/t: [Inhabitat]


Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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