Trash-Collecting Wheel Could Make Baltimore’s Harbor Swimmable By 2020
This solar-powered technology can remove up to 50,000 pounds of waste from the water every day.
Many an innovation has been the result of someone becoming fed up with how things are and doing something about it. The City of Baltimore’s new Water Wheel to clean trash and debris from the harbor is just one of the latest.
Baltimore’s inner harbor has long been an eyesore for the city, so much so that Water Wheel co-founder John Kellett of Clearwater Mills remembers many comments about how filthy the water was. Tired of hearing tourists complain about how foul the harbor was, Kellett was inspired to take action and constructed a successful prototype to mitigate the damage. He garnered support from the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, and thus the world’s first Water Wheel for trash removal was built in an impressive seven months by a small team of four.
The wheel works by funneling debris towards itself which is then captured by spring loaded leaf rakes. It then pushes the trash towards a moving conveyor belt which empties out into a dumpster located on top of a floating dock. When the dumpster can’t hold any more, it’s detached, fastened to a boat and carried to a RESCO waste-to-energy plant where the trash is incinerated and harvested into electrical energy. The wheel itself is environmentally conscious and uses solar-powered pumps to move water and operate the conveyor belt. The system removes up to 50,000 pounds of trash per day.
One of the most encouraging things about this device is that it has inspired city officials to become more involved. The city of Baltimore will soon pass a trash TMDL (total maximum daily load), which is a daily quota for garbage removed from water bodies each day. The goal is to clean up the harbor to the point of being swimmable by 2020, a feat that currently seems very far away considering the water’s health.
The idea is gaining so much traction that Washington D.C. is considering adding a wheel to the mouth of the Anacostia River. Let’s hope that more of the world’s cities can build on this idea so we can reclaim some of the most polluted areas of our planet.