By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A first of its kind invention is about to be put to some first of its kind use.

Alex DeMetrick reports the project will turn soggy trash into useful energy.

Using steam to generate electricity has been around a long time.

For several decades, this power plant near Baltimore’s stadium’s has been burning trash to heat water to make that steam.

“Each ton of trash collected will generate enough electricity to power 400 homes for an hour,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

But that fact wasn’t what brought Baltimore’s mayor out into the cold. It was to announce the city’s buy-in to the world’s first trash collecting water wheel, at the mouth of the Jones Falls.

Invented locally and funded by members of the waterfront partnership, it has been keeping the Inner Harbor cleaner since last spring.

“It’s just reached 150 tons of trash since May 8th,” Trash wheel inventor John Kellett said. “150 tons of trash have come down this river and ended up in the dumpster.”

Emptying out that dumpster costs money. A $4,900 monthly payment the city will now take over to transport and turn the trash into electricity.

Cutting the operating costs in half for those private donors.

“It’s a nice break, and it’s a great partnership,” said Lauri Schwartz, president of the Waterfront Partnership. “There’s so many benefits to the trash being removed from the water. This is an added value.”

This partnership with the city runs for five years and five years is also something of a deadline.

“Five years from now we’d like to say we don’t need a water wheel in the Jones Falls because ultimately when people stop littering and throwing trash on the ground, the waterwheel won’t be needed,” project manager Adam Lindquist said.

Right now that need is obvious everytime is rains.

Maybe five years of new efforts to curb littering will help, but for now, human carelessness and ingenuity will keep the trash moving.

There are all kinds of numbers being generated by the trash wheel.

For example, it has removed enough cigarette butts from the water to stretch from Baltimore to Frederick.




Alex DeMetrick


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