Clearwater Mills is the Maryland company that has built the trash wheels that operate currently in Baltimore.
The trash wheels are floating stationary “gizmos” that use water current and solar energy to power a conveyor belt that assists the bots in collecting and disintegrating tons of plastic bottles and other flotsam from tributaries before it reaches harbors and other water outlets (ref WSJ). A number of cities either currently use or are planning to use the bots to prevent flotsam from reaching larger water ways. The first bot, “Mr Trash Wheel,” was introduced in 2014 and when a video of the gizmo went viral a few days later, the manufacturer was advised to add some personality, since the machines were clearly attracting attention. With that, Waterfront Partnership decided to capitalize with a cartoonish makeover, adding goggly eyes and other cartoonish, human amenities. Newport Beach is one of those cities that is adopting the trash wheel concept to cut down on the trash that enters the pristine upper Newport bay. A spokesman says that they plan on giving visiting schoolchildren a tangible lesson on littering. “We’re trying to make the connection between the Starbucks coffee cup 10 miles inland from Newport Bay that ends up in the bay,” he said. Milwaukee is another city convinced of the veracity of using trash wheels, with their spokesperson saying, “After every spring rain, you see this kind of flotilla of trash moving through the city and headed toward Lake Michigan.” It’s expected that trash wheels will soon be in operation in most U.S. cities that border waterways – with of without goggly eyes.