Baltimore’s spending panel is set to approve a $317,000 contract to turn litter collected from the Inner Harbor into electricity, under an agreement believed to be the first of its kind.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will join officials from the Waterfront Partnership Tuesday to highlight the new partnership. The five-year deal will be voted on Wednesday by the Board of Estimates, a five-member panel controlled by the mayor.
Under the agreement, the city’s Department of Public Works will pay Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co. to dispose of trash collected by the Inner Harbor Water Wheel. The company will be required to use the waste to generate electricity for the city.
The Water Wheel has removed more than 140 tons of trash from Baltimore’s waterways since it was installed in May. Once the agreement is approved, the city will receive an invoice for the trash disposed of since the wheel was turned on. In the past, disposal of the trash was paid for with private money, according to the mayor’s office.
The contraption is believed to be the world’s first hydro- and solar-powered trash-collection device, according to the mayor’s office. It is located between Pier 5 and 6.
The wheel intercepts garbage from the Jones Falls River before it collects in the harbor. The trash it pulls from the water is dumped in an attached bin that is emptied periodically and taken for disposal to Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co.
The wheel is a part of the Healthy Harbor Initiative, a project intended to make the harbor swimmable by 2020. The Waterfront Partnership, a coalition of businesses, nonprofits and city agencies, is leading the effort.
City officials say the wheel is an important tool to educate the public about how litter thrown on city streets ends up trashing the waterways. Without the wheel, the trash would be collected the public works department skimmer boats, according to information provided to the Board of Estimates.
Baltimore’s under orders by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of the Environment to reduce the amount of garbage floating in the harbor.