Mr. Trash Wheel

I was heartbroken to look down to see a river so repulsive; it had trash of all shapes and sizes flowing through the murky water. The voice of the river rang out clear and strong. It was not singing, it was screaming.  People hunched over to pick up the garbage with their bare hands, then throwing the trash into trucks-I felt like I was watching someone try to move a mountain with a teaspoon, the deluge of trash is so overwhelming. Further, doing this by hand is spreading illness throughout the community. There is a solution, and this solution goes by the name of ‘Mr. Trash Wheel’.

In May 2014, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore installed the first hydro and solar powered trash interceptor in Jones Falls, which flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean. Every time it rains in Baltimore, the water washes trash from the streets into gutters, and then into the river. John Kellet was tired of seeing this and invented the ingenious machine, called Mr. Trash Wheel, to capture all the trash from the river using sustainable technologies. A nonprofit organization called Waterfront Partnership raised the 750,000 dollars needed to hire John’s company, Clearwater Mills, to design, build, and maintain the machine. So far, Mr. Trash Wheel has collected over 441 tons, the equivalent of 25 school buses!

Mr. Trash Wheel is shaped like a fourteen-foot armadillo, using stretched fabric and metal. The river’s current provides the power for the water wheel to spin.  A mechanical rake lifts the trash up from the river and puts it on a conveyor belt, which drops it into a dumpster barge. The trash is then taken to RESCO, which stands for Renewable Energy Service Company, and is burnt into fuel to generate electricity for homes around Baltimore. When the water current is not strong enough, thirty solar panels located at the back of the machine provide more power. The solar power and hydroelectrical systems work as a duo when there is a lot of rain and a lot of trash to pick up.

Oceans Care is an organization working with the locals to clean up the ocean of Lombok. They have been endlessly fundraising and working with the local organization to get this machine. This machine would be placed on the Jangkuk River, which is flows into the Indian Ocean. Getting this Water Wheel on Jangkuk River would provide new job opportunities and raise the standard of living in the area . Parents would once again be able to bring in fish for their children, without the fish being contaminated by plastic. The community would once again be able to swim in the refreshing and clean river and there wouldn’t be so many illnesses either. Mr. Trash Wheel would be the ideal machine to remove all the trash in Jangkuk River.

Mr. Trash Wheel is such a brilliant invention and solution. Not only would the river be clean, but no more trash from Jangkuk River would flow into the Indian Ocean. We would be eating clean fish, not fish filled with micro plastic and poison. I would not see unhealthy people picking up trash, but instead sanitary people that have new job opportunities. In addition to Lombok, Washington D.C and Rio De Janeiro have also expressed interest in using Mr. Trash Wheel. Imagine if countries all over the world starting introducing this machine in their rivers and streams which suffer from trash pollution. I think that this is the first step to a final solution, there still is a lot of work to be done, but this can inspire others to start to make change happen!

Photos courtesy of Britta, founder of Oceans Care:

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5 thoughts on “Mr. Trash Wheel

    • Ruby Newman says:

      Thank you! Yes, great point Naomi. I think that there is SO much trash in Lombok that this would just be a first step to collecting it all.


  1. leah newman says:

    Funny enough, two friends who live in Baltimore posted about this development/machine. For me it has a direct tie in. I love how you write!


  2. Janet says:

    Sounds like you have all the data on it, now just to contact the designer/builders and see what it would take (besides a lot of money) to get the job done! Sounds like a great innovation!


  3. Catherine says:


    I contributed some money for a second trash wheel in Baltimore.

    Harris Creek runs under the streets from one edge of my neighborhood, Belair-Edison, to Canton. Many ships were built there: The Civil War iron-clad gunship ‘The Monitor’ is not mentioned in this article. Portions of her iron plating, a new ship design in the 1860’s, were manufactured in Baltimore on Harris Creek.

    Thank you for including the Ocean Cares link. I donated some money for the Trash Wheel.



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