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Mr. Trash Wheel Immortalized in Song as Baltimore Harbor’s Hero

Baltimore Waterfront Partnership

Mr. Trash Wheel is a water-driven trash-interceptor and collection machine that was installed four years ago at the mouth of the Jones Falls, where it empties into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

It was invented by Baltimore entrepreneur John Kellett and has succeeded in collecting more than 1.5 million pounds of garbage over the years. It has also collected a large social media following, with 30,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Adam Lindquist is director of the healthy harbor initiative of the Waterfront Partnership, which owns Mr. Trash Wheel.  I asked: are you planning another?

Lindquist: "The fandom behind Mr. Trash Wheel has been so supportive. It actually allowed us to crowd fund a second trash wheel, which we installed in Canton in 2016.  We call her Professor Trash Wheel.  And right now, the Maryland Port Administration is in the process of installing a third trash wheel, which they call Captain Trash Wheel."

Mr. Trash Wheel has become a cult figure in Baltimore, so much so that he’s even inspired his own song. It was written by Jonathan Jensen, a bassist for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Why did he write it?

Jensen: "Well, last year the Peabody Heights Brewery introduced a new beer called 'Mr. Trash Wheel’s Lost Python Ale.' And at the launch party, they had a band performing– my friends in the Tongue in Cheek Jazz Band. And I thought: ‘What a perfect time to introduce a song celebrating Mr. Trash Wheel.'"

Okay, let’s sing it. We have Jonathan on ukulele, Zach Serleth on guitar, and Bridget Cimino on vocals.

MR. TRASH WHEEL by Jonathan Jensen

When the rain would start a-pouring
Down the Jones Falls waterway,
There were tons of trash that would splish and splash
All the way to the Chesapeake Bay

Till a super-smart inventor
Built a nifty new machine
Now the floating trash disappears in a flash
And the water stays clear and clean

Mr. Trash Wheel, Mr. Trash Wheel, Mr. Trash Wheel -
He’s the hero of the harbor

Every plastic bag and bottle,
Every Starbucks latte cup,
Goes a-floating south to a big wide mouth
Where the trash wheel swallows them up

He’s collected logs and tires,
Even snagged an old guitar,
But a python snake really takes the cake
For the strangest find by far.

Mr. Trash Wheel, Mr. Trash Wheel, Mr. Trash Wheel -
He’s the hero of the harbor

Now they built him a companion,
In a slightly smaller size
Looking cute and chic down at Harris Creek
With her long-lashed googly eyes

And together they work wonders
For the harbor and the bay,
Sucking up the yutz and the cigarette butts
Up to twenty five tons a day

Mr. Trash Wheel, Mr. Trash Wheel, Mr. Trash Wheel -
He’s the hero of the harbor
Mr. Trash Wheel, Mr. Trash Wheel, Mr. Trash Wheel -
He’s the hero of the harbor in Baltimore!

Tom Pelton, a national award-winning environmental journalist, has hosted "The Environment in Focus" since 2007. He also works as director of communications for the Environmental Integrity Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health. From 1997 until 2008, he was a journalist for The Baltimore Sun, where he was twice named one of the best environmental reporters in America by the Society of Environmental Journalists.