Gwynns Falls Trash Wheel

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A fourth trash wheel will join Mr. Trash Wheel, Professor Trash Wheel, and Captain Trash Wheel by the spring of 2020, according to the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative.

The fourth semi-autonomous googly-eyed trash interceptor will be located at the mouth of the Gwynns Falls where it will collect trash and debris before it makes its way to the Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay.

In anticipation of the debut of the new trash wheel, the Waterfront Partnership is asking for the public’s help naming the device. Names can be submitted at

“We’ve had our googly eyes set on the Gwynns Falls for a long time,” said Adam Lindquist, director of the Healthy Harbor Initiative. “An estimated 400 tons of litter and debris flow into the Middle Branch each year. This new trash wheel will mean cleaner shorelines and less plastic in the Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Gwynns Falls trash wheel will be the largest trash wheel ever built. It will have a grappling arm to help move large debris and a canopy covered by 72 solar panels.

The machine will use solar and hydro power to turn a water wheel that powers a series of rakes and a conveyor belt that will lift trash from the water and deposit it into a dumpster barge. The project also includes a kayak gate that will provide access to the stream.

The device will be constructed and installed by Clearwater Mills, the Pasadena-based company that invented the technology. Since the success of Mr. Trash Wheel, Clearwater Mills has received near-daily requests for new trash wheels from cities around the world.

The new trash wheel is one of five projects currently in development. The other four are located in Brunswick, GA, Newport Beach, CA, Milwaukee, WI, and Panama City, Panama.

Baltimore City and Baltimore County have come together to support the project’s development and provide operational funding.

“The trash wheels help give Baltimore communities the clean harbor they deserve,” said Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “I support projects and legislation that keep trash off our streets and out of our steams, and I applaud residents who do their part to keep their neighborhoods clean so that someday we won’t need trash wheels.”

Middle Branch property owners Weller Development and Continental Realty Corporation were early backers of the Gwynns Falls project and were later joined by the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, a nonprofit that disperses local impact grants funded by casino revenue.

The most substantial funding came this spring when the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) committed $500,000 for construction and $200,000 for operation and maintenance.

“MDOT MPA is proud to partner with the Waterfront Partnership and other stakeholders as a sponsor of Baltimore’s 4th trash wheel,” said Kristen Fidler, Director of Harbor Development for the Maryland Port Administration. “We have supported each trash wheel, including our own Captain Trash Wheel at Masonville Cove, and we look forward to making the Gwynns Falls trash wheel a spinning success.”

Waterfront Partnership receives annual funding from the Baltimore City Department of Public Works to operate its existing trash wheels and the City will contribute to the Gwynns Falls device as well.

Wheelabrator Technologies, which owns property adjacent to the project, will donate its services to offload trash from the river directly to its waste-to-energy facility where it will be converted into electricity for Maryland homes. Wheelabrator Baltimore’s in-kind support of the project is valued at $320,000 in the first year.

“We are pleased to support this important environmental initiative as part of our mission to responsibly manage Baltimore’s everyday residential and commercial waste,” said Wheelabrator Technologies Market Manager Mike Dougherty. “Removing waste from our waterways and safely converting it to clean, renewable energy has far-reaching environmental benefits.”

Mr. Trash Wheel was the first trash interceptor of its kind and was installed in May 2014 at the mouth of the Jones Falls.

Professor Trash Wheel followed in December 2016 at the mouth of Harris Creek and Captain Trash Wheel in June 2018 at Masonville Cove.

To-date, the three have collected more than 1,200 tons of trash and debris flowing downstream towards the Patapsco River. Items removed include more than 11 million cigarette butts, 1 million foam containers, nearly 650,000 plastic bags, and close to 900,000 plastic bottles.

All three of Baltimore’s trash wheels have developed large followings through their social media platforms. For more information on the trash wheels, visit:

source: Waterfront Partnership

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