The Baltimore Harbor’s solar-powered trash interceptor, better known as Mr. Trash Wheel, now holds a Guinness World Record.
The trash wheel, which collects garbage and debris that dumps into the harbor at the Jones Falls outfall, moves it onto a conveyor belt and into dumpsters that a barge later carries away. Those dumpsters full of trash never make it into the Inner Harbor and the Bay.
In the Guinness World Records 2020 Edition, Mr. Trash Wheel (popular for its big, googly eyes) set the record for “Most Floating Debris Removed by a Trash Interceptor in One Month.” The trash wheel accomplished the feat by pulling 63.3 tons of debris from the mouth of the Jones Falls during the month of April in 2017.
It’s impressive to hear how effectively the trash wheel is, but it’s also an indicator of the eye-popping amount of litter that makes it down the Jones Falls.
Adam Lindquist, director of Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, calls the world record a “bittersweet milestone”:
“Our ultimate goal is to put Mr. Trash Wheel out of a job, and for all Baltimoreans to understand how litter impacts our environmental health.”
Run by the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, Mr. Trash Wheel was the first of the four trash interceptors installed in Baltimore waterways, invented and built by Clearwater Mills LLC of Pasadena.
The trash wheel’s collections are directly linked to the amount of rainfall: the heavier the rainfall, the more trash and debris is collected. The numbers have not reached the record amount in 2017 in the three years since. Lindquist calls that a positive sign, “which we attribute to increases in street sweeping and the distribution of residential trash cans…The recent passage of legislation banning foam containers and single use bags should result in a further decline in the amount of trash we collect,” he says.
Since it was installed in May 2014, Mr. Trash Wheel has collected over 2.5 million pounds of trash and debris from upstream areas in Baltimore County and lower stream areas in Baltimore City. Situated near a water taxi stop between the city’s Four Seasons Hotel and MECU Pavilion outdoor concert venue, the trash wheel gets frequent attention from tourists.
-Meg Walburn Viviano