BY: ALEX BROWN
By now, Baltimore residents have likely noticed the emergence of a popular new structure perched on the crest of their sprightly waterfront, and cumulating a minor celebrity following on Twitter. The name of the city’s newest addition? Mr. Trash Wheel — a pollution-sucking waterwheel that will transform the harbourfront into a swimmable and fishable paradise in a mere four years, according to baltimorewaterfront.com.
Mr. Trash Wheel was officially implemented on May 9, 2014, collecting the garbage that falls from the hands of Marylanders into rain-swept streets that carry trash downstream and eventually ends up in the Baltimore Harbour and Chesapeake Bay.
The water wheel is powered by the harbour’s current, and has a solar panel roof for backup. The wheel churns the passing trash into a dumpster, which is filled, then emptied into a boat and hauled off to an incinerator (to generate electricity), and is replaced by a new, empty dumpster. Since the harbour is fed by the Jones Falls Watershed, which “drains fifty-eight square miles of land,” according to baltimorewaterfront.com, “garbage collected by Mr. Trash Wheel could come from anywhere in the Jones Falls Watershed area.” The result is a stinking mess where up to 38,000 lbs. of trash can be excavated from the harbour on any given weekday. The blame, however, cannot be wholly attributed to the inner city Baltimore residents.
It would appear that something about the salty Maryland air is enough to turn even a dedicated environmentalist into a frothing pollution addict. Or maybe, hard pressed for garbage cans, decent citizens are left wandering the streets on long sleepless nights in search of a proper place to dispose of their Snickers bar wrappers and empty water bottles. Eventually their brains are so numbed by the monotony of the journey that by the time they find a trash can, their empty palms tell the story of a mission so focused and thorough that they didn’t even notice as the garbage slipped from their fingertips in a passing breeze a few hours prior. At least this is the only rational narrative to justify the 350 tons of trash removed from Baltimore waters over the course of a year.
In any occasion, Mr. Trash Wheel is on the job and has done fantastic work for this city, removing 199,320 plastic bottles, 255,249 polystyrene containers, 4,000 glass bottles, 113,730 grocery bags, 173,269 chip bags and nearly seven million cigarette butts from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Mr. Trash Wheel, huzzah.