Baltimore’s Trash Interceptor

According to the Container Recycling Institute, 60-80 billion bottles are discarded annually in the U.S. alone. But once thrown away, these bottles (along with candy bar wrappers, takeout containers and other garbage) don’t disappear they go into landfills or into our bodies of water via storm drains.

At the urging of Baltimore Harbor Watershed Association members, nets were installed in the city’s creeks and other small waterways to catch floating debris before it reached the harbor. The nets were intended to hold the trash until workers were able to remove it. However, the sight of all the refuse clogging the mouth of Jones Falls so disgusted local resident John Kellett that he decided to take the concept a step further.

Inspired by a hay baler and devised on a cocktail napkin, the trash interceptor is a 12-foot water wheel powered by the current that acts as a mill to scoop the trash from the water and place it onto a conveyor belt, on which it’s moved to a nearby trash bin.

According to an article on RedOrbit, “A floating base will support the wheel and the conveyor belt, and the contraption will rise and fall with the tide, similar to a dock. Two floating booms will run diagonally from the Jones Falls’ banks to the mouth of the device, directing the trash its way.”

The Abell Foundation foot the $375,000 bill for the interceptor, under an agreement that the city will reimburse their cost if the concept proves successful. But Kellett, who works as a director of the Baltimore Maritime Museum, has a back-up plan just in case. A pump powered by solar-charged battery has also been developed that will push water over the wheel if the current is not sufficient to move it.

The trash interceptor is expected to be installed at the base of the Jones Falls in November.

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