Trash Wheels Making a Splash in Baltimore Harbor

Two barges collect debris out of the Inner Harbor of Baltimore before it can reach Chesapeake Bay. The barges use paddle wheels to filter trash out of the moving current. Dubbed “Mr. Trash Wheel,” and “Professor Trash Wheel,” they are a Twitter sensation. The trash wheels look like bug-eyed conch shells, and perform their water filtering with a combination of solar energy and hydraulic energy from river current.

Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel have been a quick success. Since the first was deployed in 2014 and the second in 2016, they have collected over 1.5 million pounds of trash. The trash is mainly from neighborhoods in Baltimore — it gets washed into nearby rivers, which then carry it into the harbor.

In addition to keeping trash out of the water, the trash wheels have also given insight into what kinds of litter wash out of the city and into waterways. Some of the most commonly picked-up items include cigarette butts, plastic bags, chip bags, foam containers and plastic bottles. Note that all of the problem items are single-use and lightweight — avoid these items when possible, and be extra careful when disposing of them.

Newport Beach is trying to get their own trash wheel to reduce pollution in Upper Newport Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Debris from Orange County washes into San Diego Creek, which then flows directly into Newport Bay. A wheel is estimated to cost $1 to $2 million and would take 2 to 3 years to implement. Read more from the LA Times.