(Photo by Flickr user Healthy Harbor, used under a Creative Commons license)
Hello! My name is Mr. Trash Wheel, but you can call me Wheelium.
I am a free-wheeling, garbage-loving, solar- and hydro-powered trash interceptor. I permanently reside at the mouth of the Jones Falls stream in the Baltimore Harbor where I’ve been since May 2014. Not many two year olds can say they have eaten over 1,000,000 pounds of trash!
My creators at Clearwater Mills LLC first invented me with the purpose of eating trash before it entered the Baltimore Harbor and Chesapeake Bay. They observed how garbage flowed down the Jones Falls after a rainstorm, and how the Inner Harbor became clogged with trash and debris. Now I am joined by Professor Trash Wheel, my splendid, intelligent friend at the mouth of another stream called Harris Creek. Together, we intercept trash and debris from Baltimore City’s two most polluted waterways.
While I enjoy eating trash as much as Oscar the Grouch, my main mission is to work with the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative to make the Harbor swimmable and fishable and to foster a sense of environmental stewardship in city residents. Sadly, litter from our streets and alleyways and leaking sewage from old pipes have created a toxic home for aquatic creatures. I dream of kayakers and fisherman alike enjoying the Harbor alongside healthy crabs, birds and fish.
While I am extremely good at my job, I can’t do it alone. That’s where the internet comes in.
I got bored today so I decided to make a gingerbread version of myself. Is it cannibalism if I eat it? pic.twitter.com/hoUZ7ZL6QX
— Mr. Trash Wheel (@MrTrashWheel) December 15, 2016
When I joined social media, I just wanted to meet people and talk to them about the trash plaguing our city streets and waterways. I was not expecting to become an internet sensation, but videos of me eating pizza boxes, tires, footballs and even a python have been viewed over a million times. Trash is so hot right now, but would you want videos of you binge eating posted online? Still, it’s videos like those that put me on the front page of Reddit six times.
The first time I made it to the Reddit front page was a complete accident. Someone posted a “today I learned” about me and suddenly there I was sitting at the number one spot on “the front page of the internet.”
I held my first AMA purely out of curiosity. I wanted to meet the people who seemed so interested in me. And there on Reddit I found the nerdy, curious, enthusiastic community I had been looking for. Finally I found people who could debate the finer points of “Star Wars,” appreciate my “Lord of the Rings” references and who also wanted to do something to clean up the environment. Every time I host an AMA I don’t want to stop. I’d answer questions all day every day, but that trash won’t eat itself.
Trash wheels are are great temporary solution for removing trash from our waterways, but they should not be permanent. We must reduce trash at the source by reducing waste, investing in reusable products and recycling what is left. I need human help to make that dream come true — I call it “planning for retirement.”
Then I can live out my true dream of becoming a theme park for ducklings.