Captain Trash Wheel, the most recent addition to the trash wheel family, made its debut Tuesday afternoon in South Baltimore.
Fourth- and fifth-grade students from Federal Hill Preparatory School counted down as a maintenance crew uncloaked the machine to reveal two massive, brown googly eyes. The crowd cheered for the 38-foot giant tucked away in the mouth of a stream located in Masonville Cove, along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.
Captain Trash Wheel joins Mr. Trash Wheel and the female Professor Trash Wheel who, together, have cleared more than 1.5 million pounds of trash from Baltimore’s harbor since May 2014.
Captain Trash Wheel — who is gender neutral — will clean litter from the water at Masonville Cove.
Chris Correale, director for harbor development for the Maryland Port Administration, says Captain Trash Wheel represents more than garbage.
“It’s educating people about keeping trash out of the water, and it starts one [plastic] bag at a time,” Correale said.
The Maryland Department of Transportation Port Administration funded the $400,000 trash wheel with money from the department’s existing budget for mitigation projects.
Like its predecessors, Captain Trash Wheel has a solar-powered conveyor belt that sucks up garbage and debris and shoots it into a 12-yard attached dumpster.
Captain Trash Wheel is powered by the flow of the water, making it particularly effective when it rains. That explains why the machine collected 3.7 tons of garbage last month, which has gone on record as the region’s third-wettest May.
All three trash wheels have already collected 300,000 pounds of trash this year, said John Kellett, inventor of the Trash Wheel. “They’re on track to take out a record amount of trash.”
Kellet, founder of environmental technology company Clearwater Mills, said he thought of the idea for the Trash Wheel in 2008 after listening to people complain about garbage in the harbor.
“Every time I was walking along the waterfront, I would hear people say, ‘This water is disgusting,’” he said.
Adam Lindquist, director of the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, is also dedicated to making the Inner Harbor clean again. Clad in a “Feel the Churn” trash wheel T-shirt, Lindquist sang to students about the trash wheels’ role in the harbor, which includes working with Healthy Harbor to make the water safe for swimming and fishing by 2020.
“Please don’t litter! Don’t trash Maryland!” the students shouted as they posed for photos. Captain Trash Wheel will be used as an onsite education tool at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center. Along with the Living Classrooms Foundation and the National Aquarium, Masonville Cove hosts an environmental education program with 2,000 students each year.