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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs