Mr. Trash Wheel

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Mr. Trash Wheel (2016)
Mr. Trash Wheel

Mr. Trash Wheel, officially called the Inner Harbor Water Wheel,[1] is a trash interceptor, a vessel that removes trash from the Jones Falls river as it empties into the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland. It is powered by water wheels and solar cells, and places trash from the harbor onto an onboard conveyor belt which routes it into dumpsters on the vessel. Mr. Trash Wheel was invented by John Kellett in 2008, who launched a pilot vessel at that time. A larger vessel was later developed; it replaced the pilot vessel and was launched in May 2014. The Mr. Trash Wheel vessel is part of the Waterfront Partnership of the City of Baltimore's "Healthy Harbor Plan."


Solar panels are mounted atop the roof of Mr. Trash Wheel.

Mr. Trash Wheel is a moored vessel that removes trash from the mouth of the Jones Falls river at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.[1][2] Rubbish from the streets of Baltimore is flushed into storm drains that empty into the Jones Falls river. The floating rubbish is then carried by the river to its outlet into the Inner Harbor, where it is captured by Mr. Trash Wheel.[3] The water wheel can be controlled remotely on the Internet.[4] Mr. Trash Wheel was constructed using $720,000 of public and private funding.[4]

Method of Removal[edit]

  • Step 1: Trash is funneled into the mouth of the wheel using containment booms, which have a 2 foot skirt allowing trash to collect from below the surface.
  • Step 2: Mr. Trash Wheel rakes litter onto the conveyor belt using rotating forks that dip into and out of the water.[4][5] Though the conveyor belt is slow, it can lift heavy objects (tires, mattresses, even trees).[1][5]
  • Step 3: The 14-foot wheel powers the rake and conveyor belt, even if the river is flowing upstream. If Mr. Trash wheel does not have enough power from the current, solar panels are used to pump water onto the wheel.[4]
  • Step 4: Trash at the top of the conveyor belt falls into a dumpster on a floating barge, which is periodically emptied.


Mr. Trash Wheel at Night

Mr. Trash Wheel was invented by John Kellett, who developed the idea when observing trash in the harbor while passing Pier 6 on his walk to work.[3][4] A pilot trash wheel was built and launched in the harbor by Kellett in 2008, and after this, Kellett built a larger machine that was launched in May 2014, which was able to pick up larger matter and held two dumpsters onboard.[4][6] The use of two dumpsters allows the vessel to operate longer, without having to go back to shore to empty the single dumpster that was used on the initial pilot vessel.[4]

On April 20, 2015, after the first significant rain storm of the season, Mr. Trash Wheel removed 19 tons of garbage from Baltimore's waterfront on that one day.[1] The previous record for debris removal occurred on May 16, 2014, when the machine removed 11 tons of refuse on that day.[1] At the end of the third quarter in 2016, (which occurred on September 30, 2016), it was noted that Mr. Trash Wheel had collected over 1,000,000 pounds (500 short tons) of trash since its inception.[6][7][8]

Mr. Trash Wheel is part of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore's "Healthy Harbor Plan", which has a goal to clean up the harbor to the point of making it swimmable by the year 2020.[3][5] In 2015, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore began fundraising efforts to construct a second water wheel like Mr. Trash Wheel for use "off the Boston Street Pier Park" at the Harris Creek outfall in Canton, Baltimore.[9][10] This second trash wheel has been given the nickname "Professor Trash Wheel."[6][11] As of 2023, the trash wheel family has collected 2,362 tons of trash.[12]

Adam Lindquist, director of the Healthy Harbor Initiative, approached What Works Studio to leverage the popularity of a video of the device in 2015. What Works Studio Creative Strategist Justin Allen was immediately struck with the organic look of the device and suggested personifying it with googly eyes and giving it a name. Several names were suggested by the What Works Studio staff but Mr. Trash Wheel is the one that stuck. What Works Studio suggested using Twitter as its primary channel for communication where it started gaining a following under the management of multiple What Works Studio staff. At this point, the googly eyes only existed on images of the trash wheel. The first set of physical eyes, which Lindquist had handmade in his spare time, were removed after a brief period. In March 2016, Key Tech, a Baltimore-based technology solutions company donated a more robust pair of permanent eyes.[13]

In 2023, a 15 minute documentary was created by the Rivers are Life media company to educate viewers about Mr. Trash Wheel and Baltimore water wheel family.[14]

The Trash Wheel Fan Fest is a yearly festival held to celebrate Mr. Trash Wheel, generating unique works of fan art. [15]

Additional Instances[edit]

Several additional trash wheels have been produced after the success of the original. Four patrol the Inner Harbor[16] and there are plans for one on the West Coast and one in Central America. Working with Kellett, Panamanian officials were able to secure a grant to place a trash wheel in Panama City.[17]

Like Mr. Trash Wheel, the others deployed so far have also been anthropomorphised:

  • Professor Trash Wheel (she/her), the Canton-based wheel, is visually distinguishable from the other instances due to her green googly eyes with lashes and was commissioned in December 2016;[18]
  • Captain Trash Wheel (they/them), which has brown irises, was installed in June 2018 at Brooklyn.[19]
  • Gwynnda the Good Wheel of the West (she/her) was installed at the mouth of the Gwynns Falls in June 2021, and has purple eyes and lashes. The largest of the four wheels, Gwynnda picks up more trash and debris than the other three wheels combined.[20] In 2022, Gwynnda was officially sponsored by SpongeBob Squarepants: Operation Sea Change for one year.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e Burris, Joe (April 22, 2015). "Water Wheel scoops 19 tons of Inner Harbor trash in one day". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  2. ^ "Mr. Trash Wheel is popular around the world". WMAR-TV. March 8, 2017. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Botero, Julia (June 23, 2014). "Baltimore's Water Wheel Keeps On Turning, Pulling In Tons Of Trash". NPR. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Snow, Jackie (February 17, 2017). "Googly-Eyed Trash Eaters May Clean a Harbor Near You". National Geographic.
  5. ^ a b c Clemens, Danny (April 22, 2015). ""Mr. Trash Wheel" Removes 6,700,000 Cigarettes from Baltimore Harbor". Discovery. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Campbell, Colin (October 20, 2016). "Rank record: Mr. Trash Wheel gathers 1 millionth pound of trash from Jones Falls". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  7. ^ "Mr. Trash Wheel has eaten 1 million pounds of trash". WMAR-TV. October 21, 2016. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  8. ^ John, Harry. "Roll off Dumpster Rental Company". Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  9. ^ Pringle, Megan (June 18, 2015). "City needs second water wheel to clean up harbor". WBAL-TV. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  10. ^ Babcock, Stephen (June 18, 2015). "Baltimore may be getting another trash-collecting water wheel". Baltimore. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  11. ^ Britto, Brittany (November 17, 2016). "Professor Trash Wheel to make her debut in Canton in December". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  12. ^ "Mr. Trash Wheel Official Website". Mr. Trash Wheel. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  13. ^ Kelley, Quinn (2016-03-25). "Mr. Trash Wheel gets his googly eyes back for Light City Baltimore". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  14. ^ Franciotti, Jennifer (2023-12-06). "Baltimore's Mr. Trash Wheel subject of documentary project". WBAL. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  15. ^ "Harbor Heartbeat Report Card". Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  16. ^ "Meet the Trash Wheels". Mr. Trash Wheel. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  17. ^ Sharma, Krishna. "Baltimore harbor water continues to become safer (mostly), as Mr. Trash Wheel goes international". the-baltimore-banner. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  18. ^ McDaniels, Andrea (4 December 2016). "Professor Trash Wheel makes its debut in Canton". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 2016-12-06. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  19. ^ Robinson, Lisa (5 June 2018). "You can reinvent the wheel: Baltimore welcomes Captain Trash Wheel". WBAL-TV. Archived from the original on 2018-06-08. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  20. ^ "Meet Baltimore's Fourth Trash Wheel: Gwynnda The Good Wheel Of The West". 11 March 2021. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  21. ^ "Harbor Heartbeat Report Card". Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. Retrieved 2024-01-28.

Further reading[edit]

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