Plastics are the dominant pollution in oceans across the globe. In Baltimore, Maryland, “Mr. Trash Wheel,” has removed five tonnes of junk that litters this city’s landmark daily since it became operation in May this year.
Mr. Trash Wheel, designed and created by John Kellet, is a solar powered water wheel with a floating conveyor belt that picks up harbour trash before it is carried away by water into the Atlantic Ocean. Officially called the Inner Harbour Water Wheel, it moves at a slow pace to collect garbage and debris which find their way floating up Baltimore’s harbour. According to Kellett, his creation looks similar to what would result if a spaceship, an old mill, and a covered wagon are put together. The timing for this solar-powered device is crucial because crab bets and human hands can no loner keep up with the amount of debris including ocean plastic, wrappers, cigarette and bottles.
Impressive Trash Collection Record
Since it begun operations, the wheel has become integral to the Healthy Harbour Waterfront Partnership Initiative of the state of Maryland. The wheel obtains power from the current of Jones Falls River near Baltimore’s harbour to turn it and lift trash from the water right into dumpster barges. The solar powered water wheel is kept running by an array of solar panels when water current is insufficient.
Moored permanently at the Jones River, the wheel has always managed to collect no less than an impressive eight cubic yards of garbage including ocean plastic. The Healthy Harbour Waterfront Partnership program aims to make the area conducive for swimming in six years or less, a goal that is made quicker to accomplish with Mr. Trash at the helm.
Less Energy and Less Labour
According to Bill Flohr who operates the East Marina of Baltimore Harbour, the wheel has been a real time-saver as it collects around 95% of what they would typically pick up by hand. When the container becomes full, the barge carrying it is towed to a facility for burning. This creates electricity generation for the Baltimore power grid.
The wheel utilises less energy as well as labour than several other trash collection methods and may replace them not only for the rest of Baltimore’s Inner Harbour but locations elsewhere that are near rivers. Kellet’s patented solar powered water wheel powers itself and does not use any fossil fuels, two factors which have made it highly feasible as a renewable energy technology.
More Water Wheels?
The Healthy Harbour initiative is more environment friendly and proactive. Previous to the wheel, Baltimore used skimmer boats for trash collection after it has dispersed into harbour. With $800,000 in funds — $500,000 from Maryland’s Port Administration and $300,000 from Baltimore-based energy producer Constellation Energy Group – the Healthy Harbour proponents came up with Mr. Trash.
A funding set-up such as this will enable production for more wheels. Kellet has received several enquiries from local and state officials regarding the wheel. Most interested were those from locations with or near rivers where litter, including a considerable amount of ocean plastic debris, swells up rivers from high velocity water flows.