Sometimes, it’s possible to adapt an old technology for a new purpose. This water wheel isn’t part of a Steampunk art installation, it’s a possible solution to the problem of plastic ocean debris.
Located in Baltimore, the water wheel is used to remove that debris from the city’s decidedly unclean waterways, according to TreeHugger. Officially known as the Inner Harbor Water Wheel, it sits at the mouth of the Jones Falls River, where it empties into the Inner Harbor.
The river is fed by the entire Jones Falls Watershed, which encompasses 58-square miles of land. Nearly anywhere in that area, trash can wash into a storm drain and get sent down to the Inner Harbor, which empties directly into Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Inner Harbor Water Wheel, then, is stopping ocean pollution at the source. Installed on May 16, it’s reportedly removed over 63 tons of trash from the water. It’s powered by the current when it’s strong enough, and a solar panel when it isn’t.
About 25 tons of trash can be processed per day. It’s taken to a waste-to-energy plant where it is burned to produce electricity. They probably didn’t know about that trick in the 1700s.