Most native Marylanders, especially Baltimore residents, have fallen in love with a solar-powered conveyor belt—but this is no mere piece of machinery. After hearing people complain about the amount of trash in the water, Baltimore native John Kellett invented the trash wheel in 2008, a large, solar-powered conveyor belt connected to a collection chamber for garbage in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Kellett’s original design, now complete with googly eyes and a Twitter account, is known as Mr. Trash Wheel. He made a home in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in May of 2014 and quickly gained notoriety in the city, now having more than 16,000 followers on social media. In December 2016 his friend, the bespectacled Professor Trash Wheel, joined him in Canton. Now, the “species” has gained a sailor, Captain Trash Wheel, who hopes to bolster the success of its predecessors at its place on the Patapsco.
Captain Trash Wheel is located in Masonville Cove along the Patapsco River. Once the site of an illicit dump, Masonville Cove has been cleaned up and transformed into 54-acres of wetlands, nature trails and bird sanctuary in an underserved area of southern Baltimore. Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was founded on the property as part of a harbor dredging project, making the cove a perfect place for a trash wheel to continue to work towards a clean harbor and Chesapeake Bay. In May alone, the Captain collected 7,400 pounds of garbage.
Since debut of Mr. Trash Wheel, the trash wheels have collected more than 1.5 million pounds of garbage, including 718,000 plastic bottles and more than 10 million cigarette butts. Maybe because of the effectiveness of the trash wheels, or just their good-natured googly eyes, the wheels have fostered a cult following, including T-shirts, specialty brews and even a secret society called The Order of the Wheel
Plan a trip to see the trash wheels for yourself.