Gwynnda the Good Wheel of the West, Baltimore’s newest trash wheel, on Thursday was officially welcomed to her permanent home at the mouth of the Gwynns Falls in the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.
Gwynnda is the newest addition to the trash wheel family, joining Captain Trash Wheel, Professor Trash Wheel and the original Mr. Trash Wheel. Unlike her three relatives, however, Gwynnda has a “magic wand” to “levitate” away larger debris.
The “wand,” in reality a grappling arm, allows a worker to lift logs and other tree debris, explained John Kellet, president of Clear Water Mills, the Pasadena-based company that invented the trash wheel technology.
“The reason Gwynnda has it is the Gwynns Falls will have a lot of logs and tree-fall debris that can get jammed up and make Gwynnda have a hard time eating,” Kellet said in a video unveiling Gwynnda’s new home. “So to assist that, we have a log grapple that’s going to help us get rid of those logs so Gwynnda can eat all the trash.”
The nearly 25-mile-long Gwynns Falls stream begins in Baltimore County, flows through Baltimore City, and ends in the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.
The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore started talking about cleaning up the Middle Branch in 2015, said Chelsea Anspach, communications manager for the Waterfront Partnership.
In 2018, the organization announced plans for a new trash wheel, and Clear Water Mills began building it in 2020.
The Waterfront Partnership asked for name suggestions, and in March 2021 it announced the selection of Baltimore resident Zachary Yarosz’s idea: “Gwynnda the Good Wheel of the West.”
Yarosz said he and his partner were already big fans of the trash wheel family and he wanted to come up with a name that was a magical play on words.
“My partner and I bike and fish along the Gwynns Falls and absolutely love everything about the trash wheels,” Yarosz said in a statement in March. “I guess I’m just a punny guy. I wanted to think up something extra special and magical for the Westside.”
Gwynnda’s name pays homage to Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.
To christen Gwynnda’s arrival at her permanent home, Kellet stuck a can of Old Bay seasoning in the grappling arm, which a worker shook back and forth to sprinkle over the trash wheel.
“No Maryland meal — even trash — is complete without a little Old Bay seasoning,” he said.
Anspach also led viewers at home through a special incantation to wake up Gwynnda.
With the recitation of the Latin words “Ave Rotae Purgamentum,” which loosely translate to “Hail, Wheel of Trash,” Gwynnda’s wheel started turning.
Gwynnda is Baltimore’s largest trash wheel, capable of collecting approximately 300 tons of trash and debris from the Gwynns Falls each year — more than the consumption of the other three trash wheels combined.
Gwynnda’s three relatives together have collected a total of more than 1,600 tons of trash and debris, including more than 12 million cigarette butts, more than 1.3 million foam containers, nearly 1.3 plastic bottles, and more than 760,000 plastic bags.
The new trash wheel is stationed between the Interstate 95 overpass and WIN Waste Innovations, previously known as Wheelabrator Technologies. WIN, which leases property adjacent to the trash wheel from Baltimore City, will offload trash from Gwynnda and deliver it to its incinerator.
Although the incinerator cuts down on the trash being sent to landfills and generates electricity, critics have also noted that the process produces toxic emissions.
Gwynnda can be recognized by her five-foot tall, sparkling, purple, googly-eyes. She uses 72 solar panels and a hydropower system to turn the water wheel, which powers the rakes and conveyor belt that lift trash out of the water and into a dumpster barge for WIN to take.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article referred to the incinerator company as Wheelabrator Technologies. That is the old name of the company, which recently rebranded as WIN Waste Innovations. That version also said WIN owns the property adjacent to the new trash wheel, but the company actually leases the property from Baltimore City.