For years, the ambiguous yet contented face of Mr. Trash Wheel has been an icon of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
The googly-eyed trash collector has been gobbling up millions of pounds of the city’s river-borne garbage for years, and led to the creation of several water-wheel allies like Capt. Trash Wheel, and Prof. Trash Wheel.
The idea for some sort of garbage collector came from local inventor John Kellet, who would walk across the footbridge spanning the Jones Falls stream that feeds the Baltimore harbor—and be disturbed on seeing the unabated flow of garbage floating towards it.
Kellet looked around to see if there were any potential solutions to the problem, but found none. He would end up not only giving the harbor a more sparkling, trash-free appearance, but one of the city’s biggest celebrities and social media icons—though he admitted it wasn’t his idea to put googly eyes on the barge.
GNN reported in 2017 that Mr. Trash Wheel rotates based on power drawn from the river’s current. If not enough electricity can be generated from the river alone, the wheel uses solar energy instead.
Kellet, who runs Clearwater Mills, also makes specially designed cages to fit into storm drain outfalls—which is the source of most of the garbage pollution into the harbor.
His idea has been so successful that several other organizations are building their own Mr. Trash Wheel. Coming soon to the Gwynns Falls River in Maryland is Gwynda the Good Wheel of the West, while Oakland, California is building one called Trasharella.
The first international Mr. Trash Wheel is coming to Panama, with “Mrs. Wheel” or “Doña Rueda.”
“I never envisioned we would have googly-eyes on this machine, with a name for it and a beer [named after it], and the trash wheel t-shirts and a trash wheel fan club and a trash wheel fan fest, it’s kind of beyond my wildest dreams,” said Kellet in the documentary on CNET.
Behind the Mr. Trash Wheel brand is one of the most important concepts of modern pollution theory—that rivers deposit the bulk of the garbage existing in the oceans. Non-profit The Ocean Cleanup, which operates sophisticated green energy river trash interceptors, explains on its website that one thousand of the world’s rivers source 80% of all the trash found in the ocean.
The documentary suggests lobbying your local politicians into installing a Mr. Trash Wheel by sending them some of the facts—such as the technology’s ability to collect 38,000 pounds of trash per day—or even the fact that it has the ability to become a social media influencer for your city.