River cleanup in Baltimore has gotten easier (and more fun to watch) with the construction of the Healthy Harbor initiative‘s Water Wheel. Designed by John Kellett and Daniel Chase, the solar and water-powered trash collector stops up to 50,000 lbs of daily trash and debris, often stormwater runoff, from continuing out into Baltimore Harbor. From Inhabitat

Here’s how it works: two orange booms help funnel debris towards the Water Wheel, where spring-loaded leaf rakes intercept the trash and push it onto a moving conveyor belt which empties out into a 16 yard dumpster, located on top of a floating dock. Once the dumpster is full, the dock is detached, hooked up to a boat, and then taken to a RESCO waste-to-energy plant, where the trash is incinerated and turned into electrical energy. The solar-powered pumps move 20,000 gallons of water an hour onto the rotating waterwheel that turns the conveyer belt.

In addition to cleaning up the harbor, the Water Wheel also provides other benefits. The constant rotation of the waterwheel puts much needed oxygen back into the water, helping to attract schools of fish and improve habitat conditions and water quality. The trash collector also removes organic waste, which if left to decompose, causes oxygen depletion and releases ammonia. As a project of the Healthy Harbor Living Laboratory, the Water Wheel also serves to educate people about stormwater management and the Inner Harbor.

The initiative’s goal: swimmable, fishable waters by the year 2020.

Update: They added googly-style eyes to ‘Mr. Trash Wheel’ in April, 2016:

And as of October, 2016, 1,000,000 pounds of trash were collected in the 27 months that Mr. Trash Wheel had been operating.

In the archives, more solutions: turning plastic bottles into football jerseys, small houses, and bright DIY lights.

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