Image: Mr. Trash Wheel on the Baltimore River at night, lit up by purple lights with the Baltimore skyline in the background.

Fixing Pollution Through Fun! How a Googly-Eyed Innovation is Cleaning Baltimore Harbor

What if there was someone who could eat all of the trash going into our oceans? Let’s meet one family of bug-eyed, big mouthed, giant crustacean-like superheroes who are nomming on all of the debris on their way to the oceans and proving that “play” can solve some of the world’s most vexing problems.

I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Trash Wheel, whose family is responsible for eating up over 1,608.41 tons of trash and debris since it was launched in 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland by its creator, John Kellett. Powered by the ocean’s current and solar power, it once even picked up 16 dumpsters worth of trash in a single heavy rainstorm! 1

The success of this funny yet impactful innovation makes us wonder: could adding a bit of fun to the most cumbersome, overwhelming jobs out there help them have more of an impact?

The Wheely Good News

It’s not often that the most cutting-edge systems include googly-eyes and a Twitter account, but this family has dispelled that idea. Mr. Trash Wheel and their cousins Professor Trash Wheel, Captain Trash Wheel, and Gwynda the Good Wheel of the West have collected over 12 million cigarette butts, 50 thousand sports balls, 2 million plastic bags and bottles, a keg, a guitar, and a ball python. (Yes… a ball python.) 2

This family of funny monchers harnesses the power of play to not only clean up the water. They also spread the word about how so much garbage ends up in the waterways in the first place.

They’re making it enjoyable to actually learn about and correct our waste disposal habits. Plus, they help us see where our litter and trash end up! This is particularly important for everyone who lives upstream from the Baltimore Harbor. One of the biggest hurdles we face in cleaning up our waterways is getting people to connect with the problem and feel like they can make a difference! 3

Here’s a fantastic look at how the Trash Wheel family is ensuring that the waterways heading into the Baltimore Harbor (and beyond) are trash free in this great video from CNET.

Via: CNET 4

For more from CNET, visit their YouTube channel and subscribe!

If you’d like to connect with Mr. Trash Wheel and learn more about their efforts—as well as the arrival of their newest family member in Baltimore, Gwynnda the Good Wheel of the West—head over to their Instagram page or their website!

What other, typically lackluster, activities can we make more fun?

If picking up trash and cleaning up rivers can be made enjoyable with a couple googly-eyes and a conveyor belt, what else can benefit from the intervention of play?

Could we host a scavenger hunt for litter in our community? (Imagine a bingo board with all sorts of different litter items!) How about turning chores into a competition with your partner or your family?

There are so many ways that we can start thinking differently about the tasks in our lives that don’t always bring us joy, like taking out the trash, composting, doing the dishes, or even wrapping our brains around the giant looming issue of climate change and our place in it.

The thing is, in order to move forward with the type of gusto and enthusiasm needed to actually make a difference, play needs to be involved.

Without one of the best parts of life fueling us, where are we really going? Mr. Trash Wheel and fam have shown us that play can lead us to truly astounding results.

For more great stories of how play benefits our lives, check out these articles next!

Living with Fun in Mind! Lessons from New Zealand’s Smartest Parrot

Adding more fun into our daily lives may not be as difficult as we think! The kea—an unbelievably unique parrot known for their curious and mischievous ways—are masters at play, and they have a few things to show us about this delightful way to thrive in life!

Read More
Are Clowns Making Us Healthier?

Could a clown actually improve your health? For thousands of people in hospitals around the globe, these funny characters are their ticket to success! With a surprising range of benefits, medical clowns are improving how we approach healthcare. Check it out! 

Read More
The Playgrounds Encouraging Safer Play by Using Hammers and Nails!

Could a playground with hammers, nails, shovels, and building materials actually make play safer? Adventure playgrounds are helping kids develop valuable life skills, letting them experiment with controlled risk, and encouraging creativity, exploration, and self-confidence!

Read More

As always, my friend, stay open to new possibilities!

Sam

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Notes:

  1. PBS NewsHour. “Mr. Trash Wheel Cleans up Baltimore Harbor with a Dash of Humor.” PBS NewsHour, 9 Apr. 2018, www.pbs.org/newshour/science/mr-trash-wheel-cleans-up-baltimore-harbor-with-a-dash-of-humor.
  2. “Home – Mr. Trash Wheel.” Mr. Trash Wheel, 2017, www.mrtrashwheel.com/. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.
  3. PBS NewsHour. “Mr. Trash Wheel Cleans up Baltimore Harbor with a Dash of Humor.” PBS NewsHour, 9 Apr. 2018, www.pbs.org/newshour/science/mr-trash-wheel-cleans-up-baltimore-harbor-with-a-dash-of-humor.
  4. CNET. “Mr. Trash Wheel Gobbles Garbage All the Live-Long Day.” YouTube, 13 June 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=H84d8eyhfyY. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.
Published: December 6, 2021

Image: Samantha Burns

Sam Burns

Former Editor-In-Chief

Sam wrote and edited hundreds of articles during her time on the Goodness Exchange team from 2016-2021. She wrote about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the Goodness Exchange, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and procurer of cheeses.

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