Baltimore's Newest Trash Wheel Gets a Name

If you haven't seen one of Baltimore's best pollution solutions—the trash wheel—prepare to be impressed.

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The giant water wheel known as Mr. Trash Wheel lives at Pier Six, right where the Jones Falls dumps litter and runoff right into the water, polluting the Baltimore harbor, the Patapsco River, and then the Bay. It harnesses power from the Jones Falls to turn a water wheel connected to a conveyer belt, collecting litter and holding it in a dumpster barge. When the current isn't strong enough to turn the wheel, solar panels do the work.

Since May of 2014, Mr. Trash Wheel has collected a stunning 1,477,580 pounds of garbage and debris. Most of its haul consists of plastic bottles, cigarette butts, and grocery bags, but notably, a ball python and an acoustic guitar have both been found Mr. Trash Wheel's dumpster. It's been so successful that a second, smaller trash wheel, known as Professor Trash Wheel, was installed in Canton on the Southeast side of the harbor.

Now, a new trash wheel is planned for 2018. It will be at Masonville Cove, along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River near Brooklyn. And new this week, that trash wheel has a name!

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The newest garbage-collecting water wheel will be known as "Captain Trash Wheel," thanks to a contest run by the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Port of Baltimore. The other choices included "Trashzilla," "Uncle Curtis," "Oscar," and "Trash Smasher."

Captain Trash Wheel will be another addition to the many conservation efforts at Masonville Cove. Once a neglected section of waterfront bordered by a dredging materials dumping ground, Masonville Cove became the nation's first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in 2013. In the last four years, native wetland plants have been planted there and an Environmental Education Center has been built. Cleanup on the Masonville Cove waterfront is a work in progress, and Captain Trash Wheel will be a welcome ally in the refuge's efforts for a better Bay.

Megan Viviano