News / Science & Technology

Water Wheel Picks Up Trash in Baltimore's Waterways

Water Wheel Picks Up Trash in Baltimore's Waterwaysi
X
July 15, 2014 12:28 AM
Trash in waterways around the world is a major environmental issue. The U.S. city of Baltimore, Maryland, is tackling its problem with a one-of-a-kind contraption with a waterwheel that pulls in garbage. Since it began operating last May, the water wheel has proved more effective than other means of picking up trash in the water. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
Deborah Block

Trash in waterways around the world is a major environmental issue.  The U.S. city of Baltimore, Maryland, is tackling its problem with a one-of-a-kind contraption with a water wheel that pulls in garbage.  Since it began operating last May, the water wheel has proved more effective than other means of picking up trash in the water. 

The odd-looking contraption sits on the Jones Falls River that flows into Baltimore's harbor.  Every year, storm run-off from city streets carries huge amounts of garbage and debris into the river, polluting the harbor.   

“After a rainstorm, we could get a lot of trash in Baltimore Harbor," said Adam Lindquist, who is with the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, the group that sponsors the water wheel. "Sometimes the trash was so bad it looked like you could walk across the harbor on nothing but trash.”

Containment booms funnel trash and debris towards the gadget, where a leaf rake pulls it in and onto a moving conveyer that drops the garbage into a dumpster.  The dumpster is on a floating dock that can be pulled to shore by boat, where the waste is burned to create electrical energy.

The water wheel is more efficient than the way the garbage was being picked up  -- using small boats with nets.

Daniel Chase, co-designer of the device, says it can remove 45,000 metric tons of garbage each day.

“Instead of chasing one or two pieces of trash at a time, we just stand at the source of it and catch it all at once,” he said.

Chase says the garbage comes from people who throw litter like plastic bottles or Styrofoam plates on the ground, instead of putting it into bins.  

The water wheel uses renewable energy -- mostly river current, but when needed, also energy from solar panels.

‘It is run on water, so it’s either river current, pushing from underneath or we are pumping water onto it which then fills buckets to carry the wheel around,” Chase said.

The rotation of the water wheel also provides other benefits by putting oxygen back into the river, and thus improving the water quality.

Chase says the technology can be used on waterways anywhere in the world.  But he thinks that's not the answer in the long run.

“The real cure is not the water wheel. The real cure is not littering," he said. "And the best I can tell, that’s by educating children.”

Lindquist agrees.

 “Our goal is actually to put the water wheel out of business," he said. "Of course, that will come through behavior change, if people don’t let garbage leave their hands except to go into a receptacle, then we wouldn’t need a water wheel.”

Lindquist says the water wheel is also helping with another goal  -- to make the harbor safe for swimming by 2020.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs