Who would’ve guessed that a googly-eyed solar- and water-powered water wheel would have its own social media accounts and merchandise?
Mr. Trash Wheel has been keeping garbage out of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor since 2014. Part of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, it sits at the mouth of the Jones Falls River, which flows into the Inner Harbor and the Patapsco River before feeding into the larger Chesapeake Bay. Through the power of the river, with backup solar panels for days when the current isn’t strong enough, its huge forks and conveyor belt pull trash out of the water, disposing it into the dumpster at the vehicle’s rear.
A post shared by Mr. Trash Wheel (@mrtrashwheel) on Jul 25, 2018 at 11:41am PDT
By collecting the garbage that washes into the river, Mr. Trash Wheel protects local marine life and keeps the harbor clean. The waste collected is also burned and used to power Maryland homes. According to Healthy Harbor’s data, as of May 2018, Mr. Trash Wheel has picked up over 800 tons of trash, which has powered at least 10,526 homes.
Co-designer John Kellett had worked on the harbor as a sailor, educator, and director with Historic Ships of Baltimore and saw the garbage in the water on a daily basis. After researching the problem and finding no existing solutions, he designed a prototype trash wheel with partner Dan Chase in 2008. While the first wheel proved too small to handle the load, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore took notice and raised funds for a bigger trash wheel that launched on May 9, 2014.
It wasn’t long before the new trash wheel gained attention. When their video demonstrating the trash wheel, above, went viral, Healthy Harbor knew they needed to take advantage of the attention to raise awareness and funds for conservation efforts. What Works Studios, an ad agency, suggested injecting a little personality into the invention. Thus “Mr. Trash Wheel” was born, with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages as proof, pairing a cheesy but earnest online voice with a googly-eyed profile picture.
As of July 2018, @MrTrashWheel has over 16,600 followers, and his cartoonish character appears all over, from T-shirts and ugly holiday sweaters to Halloween costumes. Googly eyes were installed on the real trash wheel to fit the online personality. A second trash wheel, female Professor Trash Wheel, was launched in Canton in 2016, supported by people from 36 states and a dozen other countries. Peabody Heights Brewery even named beers after the duo—Mr. Trash Wheel’s Lost Python Ale and Blinded Me Wit Science—and a bassist at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra came up with a catchy theme tune.
A post shared by Mr. Trash Wheel (@mrtrashwheel) on Jul 20, 2018 at 9:46am PDT
But how does the online success translate into environmental action? According to Rebecca Woods, executive director of Baltimore’s Environmental Control Board, in an article for PBS NewsHour, “Mr. Trash Wheel helps to connect the dots and helps residents understand the impact of their actions.” Because the Jones Falls River has a watershed of 58 square miles (150 square kilometers), the trash that ends up in the Inner Harbor originates on streets from miles around, washed into storm drains during a rainstorm. Through the sheer amount of garbage collected and the social media conversations they start, Mr. Trash Wheel and friends illustrate how keeping waterways clean starts on land.
Along with this, Waterfront Partnerships of Baltimore has recently stepped up its educational efforts with the new Captain Trash Wheel at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center and the Order of the Wheel, an exclusive “not-so-secret society” of volunteers committed to keeping neighborhoods clean. With continued efforts, their goal is to make the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020—and, one day, to give Mr. Trash Wheel an early retirement.
Check out Mr. Trash Wheel at Jones Falls Expy, Baltimore, MD 21202.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.