Ocean Kickstarter of the Month: Let’s build another trash eating water wheel in Canton!

Help the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore Build a new Water Wheel powered trash interceptor in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood.

Help Fund the Canton Water Wheel.

I love the Baltimore Trashwheel. Let’s build another one.

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In all seriousness, if you haven’t heard about the Baltimore Water Wheel, see my first article, or my 1-year recap at Hakai, or my most recent SFS post, or visit Mr. TrashWheel on Twitter. Of all the tech in all the world proposed to clean trash out of our oceans, these water wheels are the only large scale projects that have best tested and vetted against some serious garbage.

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Why I keep returning to the Baltimore Water Wheel

Last month, I returned to Baltimore for the National Ocean Exploration Forum. While there, I paid a visit to my old friend, Mr. Trashwheel.

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel is in its second year of operation, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay to the tune of up to 50,000 pounds of trash per day. I have written about this cool piece of engineering and ingenuity several times.

Charm in the fall.

Charm in the fall.

So why do I keep writing and revisiting this project?

It’s working.

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Charm City’s Water Wheel: The first truly feasible ocean cleaning array is already afloat

The Future is Here. Photo by Andrew Thaler.

The Future is here. Photo by Andrew Thaler.

Ocean plastic is bad news. Last week we were learned that not only did every ocean have its own, personal garbage gyre, but that a huge amount of plastic is “missing” from the ocean–that is, it has been incorporated into the ecosystem in ways we don’t yet understand. While there is plenty of misinformation floating around out there about what exactly these garbage patches are (hint: they aren’t solid islands of trash), there is no doubt that they are effecting the global ocean ecosystem in both profound and subtle ways.

Friend of Southern Fried Science and Deep Sea News writer Miriam Goldstein spent her PhD working on the North Pacific Gyre. Her research has revealed invasive pathogenic ciliates living on plastic trash and plastic-eating barnacles floating in the gyre. She also points out one of the biggest problems with trying to clean up these massive, dispersed “garbage patches”:

You would almost have to clear-cut the top of the ocean in order to clean up all those little bits of plastic.

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There is a sea of theoretical solutions, from dragging nets across the ocean to mooring massive floating arrays, in various states of completeness. Some have been no more than public relation stunts, while others push on despite extensive criticism from oceanographers and other marine experts. Some have promise, other appear to be no more than press releases.

Amid the TED talks, press-pushes, empty promises, and gratuitous publicity stunts, the City of Baltimore quietly built, tested, re-designed, re-built, and deployed a solar-powered, trash-eating, waterwheel-driven garbage scow that’s plying the urban waters of the Chesapeake Bay, pulling tons of trash out of the Inner Harbor every day. Say hello to the Inner Harbor Water WheelContinue reading