Author: Alicia Jooste
Meet Mr.Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel, the anthropomorphic inventions keeping our waterways clean.
The success of Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel on Baltimore’s harbour means the creative solution to trash in our waterways may soon be spreading to other cities.
The garbage gobblers, which are solar-and hydro-powered trash interceptors, have left Baltimore’s harbour cleaner than it has been in decades, with over one million pounds of trash being pulled out of the water since it was installed in May 2014.
The trash wheel’s creator, John Kellet, grew tired of walking past the copious amounts of garbage floating on the water every day. Being both a sailor and engineer, he approached the city council with an idea of how to clean the harbour.
The contraption works by drawing power from the installed solar panels and the current of Jones Falls River to help turn the waterwheels. Containment booms then direct the trash towards the conveyer belt that leads the trash into a dumpster.
The waste collected is predominantly consumer products, including a total of nine million cigarette butts and over 300,000 plastic bags.
Kellett says “there is a misconception around where the trash comes from. Most people believe it comes from throwing things directly into water. Instead, it comes from litter thrown out of cars, illegal dumping, and cigarettes left on the ground, which when it rains is washed into the drainage system.”
The data collected is being used to support environmental legislation. For example, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore recently used similar information to support a bill that would ban Styrofoam containers.
Due to the machine being environmentally friendly and inexpensive, various countries are looking to deploy their own trash wheels, including waterways in Lombok, Indonesia, Panama City, Rio de Janeiro, Honolulu, Atlanta and Denver.
The trash eaters with their heart-warming eyes and internet personalities have brought a sense of humour to the environmental movement, which at times can become overwhelming.
Alicia worked at Planet Ark in 2016.