The popular garbage-sifting water-wheel is in good spirits, despite the wind-related injury.

Place-branding campaigns might be risky business for cities, but anthropomorphizing a charismatic piece of waste infrastructure? That’s PR gold.

Fourteen feet tall and vaguely crustacean in looks, Baltimore’s trash-sifting water wheel won over green-minded locals when first installed in the city’s Inner Harbor in 2014. But when its overseeing organization, Healthy Harbor Initiative, slapped on a temporary pair of giant googly eyes last Halloween, “Mr. Trash Wheel” (as it’s known on Twitter) truly captured hearts and minds. More than 1,500 people petitioned for permanent peepers, based on their ability to make environmentalism more appealing. “These googly eyes could save the planet,” they wrote. When a local light festival rolled around in March, Healthy Harbor Initiative didn’t miss a beat, and gave Mr. Trash Wheel a new, LED-lit pair.

All of which helps explain the intense interest around the wheel’s well-being since last Saturday. At the height of the festival, with Mr. Trash Wheel’s built-in conveyor-belt glowing purple, a strong gust of wind unceremoniously blew off its left eyeball. (Watch slow-motion video footage above; it is at once distressing and weirdly hilarious.) Concerned Baltimoreans reached out on Twitter right away: “Oh no! Are you okay?” one asked. “Wait... so does this mean you had to eat your own eye??” another quite rationally wondered.

But Mr. Trash Wheel supporters can rest easy. The five-foot-wide aluminum blinker was found Tuesday afternoon in the Jones Falls by the National Aquarium and Clearwater Mills, “the company that invented and operates the water wheel,” according to the Baltimore Sun. And yes, Mr. Trash Wheel will get its full vision back.

“This obviously revealed some flaws in our design approach and we are making modifications," Healthy Harbor Initiative director Adam Lindquist told the Sun. "We plan to have the eyes back up and running in a couple weeks."

In the interim, Mr. Trash Wheel is sporting an eye-patch (at least in its Twitter profile picture) and seems to be in good spirits. And as far as we can tell, Saturday’s trauma has not affected its ability to collect literally tons of trash every day.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    A History of the American Public Library

    A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

  2. Equity

    Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution

    The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.

  3. a map of the Mayan Train route in Mexico
    Environment

    Mexico’s ‘Mayan Train’ Is Bound for Controversy

    President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s signature rail project would link cities and tourist sites in the Yucatan with rural areas and rainforests.

  4. A photo of a design maquette for the Obama Presidential Center planned for Jackson Park and designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
    Design

    Why the Case Against the Obama Presidential Center Is So Important

    A judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by Chicago preservationists can proceed, dealing a blow to Barack Obama's plans to build his library in Jackson Park.

  5. A sanitation employee helps homeless people with their possessions in New Orleans in October 2017.
    Equity

    Because of Louisiana, the Minimum Wage in New Orleans Is a Poverty Wage

    Around the World Day of Social Justice, we should consider why cities pay poverty wages, and why 28 states can preempt local efforts to raise the minimum wage.