Mr Trash Wheel: Baltimore’s legendary solar and hydro-powered trash interceptor cleans up more than 1.5 million pounds of trash

Mr Trash Wheel, Baltimore Harbor’s resident solar and hydro-powered trash interceptor, has earned itself “celebrity” status worldwide thanks to its novelty googly eyes affixed to its hood and social media “personality”.

More than 1.5 million pounds of trash has been pulled out of the water by Mr Trash Wheel since it was installed on a tributary in May 2014.

The technology behind Mr Trash Wheel is simple. Two booms extend from a floating barge on the Jones Falls, a nearly 18-mile-long stream which flows into the harbour. The booms extend all the way to the stream’s concrete banks. Water can flow on into the bay, but the trash cannot. Cups, bottles, plastic bags and floating debris are funneled toward the mouth of a conveyor belt on the barge, which then moves it to a dumpster. A water wheel uses the current of the river to power the machine, along with a few backup solar panels.

Mr Trash Wheel is part of the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, which aims to make Baltimore Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. Trash collected by the Water Wheel is incinerated to generate electricity.

The device was created by sailor, engineer and environmentalist John Kellett who watched debris build up around Baltimore’s waterfront for over twenty years. Mr Trash Wheel has helped lead to Maryland’s statewide ban on Styrofoam food containers (a first in the country), partly because of a loyal Twitter following by local fans who are witness to the devastating amount of trash intercepted each day.

John Kellett said: “Because the machine looks the way it does, it draws attention to the problem and people become inspired to become part of the solution.”

Two cousin interceptors Professor Trash Wheel and Captain Trash Wheel have since been added to the Mr Trash Wheel family in Baltimore.

A trash interceptor is expected to launch in the spring of 2020 in the Oakland Estuary in California, to prevent trash coming from the estuary, flowing into the San Francisco Bay. John Kellett also plans on installing trash wheels in other cities across the US including Honolulu, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Denver. Representatives from John Kellett’s company, Clearwater Mills, have also visited sites abroad including Panama City, Rio de Janeiro, and Lombok in Indonesia.

Mr Trash Wheel

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at

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