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This autonomous trash-collecting boat is making Baltimore Harbor less disgusting

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is known for its beautiful skyline waterscape and its tourist friendly-areas — but while it may have looked beautiful in pictures, if you were to acutally take a stroll through the harbor a couple years ago, you would’ve seen something completely different. Not too long ago, the harbor itself was horribly polluted. It was so bad that the waterway often filled with garbage after heavy rainstorms, and failed its 2014 water quality report card. Since then, however, groups like the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore have taken steps to remediate the waterways, in hopes that the harbor will be fishable and swimmable once again by 2020.

Baltimore’s Waterfront Partnership is making a change for the better thanks to the Inner Harbor Water Wheel, affectionately known as Mr. Trash Wheel to Baltimore’s residents. Installed in May 2014, the Water Wheel sits at the mouth of the Jones Falls River in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The Jones Fall river watershed drains fifty-eight square miles of land outside of Baltimore and is a significant source of trash that enters the harbor.

The Water Wheel has been astonishingly successful at trash removal, visibly decreasing the amount of garbage the lands in the harbor, especially after a rainfall. In the 18 months since its installation, the Water Wheel has removed 331 tons (1,543 cubic yards) of garbage. This includes 189,000 plastic bottles 243,000 polystyrene containers, and a staggering 6.6 million cigarette butts. The wheel moves continuously, removing garbage and dumping it into an attached dumpster. When a dumpster is filled, it is towed away and new one is put in place.

Not only does The Water Wheel remove unsightly garbage from the water — it also uses renewable power to keep its wheel turing. The current of the Jones Fall river is its primary power source, and additional power is supplied by an array of onboard solar panels. To see Mr Trash Wheel in action you can the wheel’s on Twitter account and view a live webcam that showcases the daily wheeling.

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The project has been so successful that the Waterfront Partnership is actually looking to install a second trash water wheel in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood. The group has raised approximately 40 percent of the $550,000 required to obtain and install the second Mr. Trash Wheel in the city.