Plastic Bottle Bulbs Shed Some Light on the Situation

Posted by Zak Stone

For the millions who live in the shantytowns of the developing world, there are better things to spend money on than electricity. But many corrugated-iron-roofed shacks, like the ones seen throughout the poorer neighborhoods of Manila, Philippines, lack windows to let in natural light, leaving residents the choice of complete darkness or running expensive electric bulbs all day. However, a new development project called Liter of Light aims to solve that predicament through an unexpected and highly affordable technology: old soda bottles.

When filled with water (with some bleach to keep out the algae) and snugly inserted into custom-cut holes in a roof, plastic bottles refract the sun's rays, scattering about 55 watts of light across a would-be pitch black room. The new lighting source can be rigged up in less than an hour, and it lasts for five years. Liter of Light has already set up 10,000 solar bottle bulbs in homes across Manila and Laguna, the adjacent province. Illac Diaz, the social entrepreneur behind the project, told Reuters that the sustainable and inexpensive light source can boost "the standard of living across the board for the bottom 90 percent of this country." Another woman said she hopes to save 23 dollars per month.

The bulbs have previously been used in Brazil, where a mechanics worker started using the technique during power shortages in Sao Paolo, and in Haiti, as shown in the video below. While the lights are obviously functional only during the day, they're a great step toward reducing poverty, not to mention energy independence.