Used soda bottles light up the world – for free

Refracted sunlight from soda bottles acts as a 'light bulb' in dimly lit homes in the developing world

By , Global Envision

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    Children play in an alley in an overcrowded slum in Manila. Makeshift homes are often dark and windowless. An inexpensive soda bottle light can spread sunlight throughout a room, the equivalent of burning a 50-watt light bulb.
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Water, a little bleach, and a plastic bottle are all Filipino entrepreneur Illac Diaz needs to light up the world. He's out to make lighting free and safe, one slum at a time.

Until now, nearly three million people in the Philippines have gone without electricity, according to philstar.com. Those with access often use unsafe or illegal technology, creating disastrous effects. For example, 2,520 electricity-related fires were reported in 2009. In the Philippines, through the My Shelter Foundation, Diaz is implementing Solar Bottle Bulbs to diminish these problems.

A used plastic bottle filled with water and a touch of bleach is placed in a hole of a tin roof. For up to five years, 50 watts of light fill up a once-gloomy windowless shack any time the sun is out, Mr. Diaz told Reuters.

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Although WattWatt.com reports that the idea originally started with mechanic Alfredo Moser of Brazil, who used the creation locally, Diaz is attempting to spread it worldwide. Using a student design created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Diaz has brought the appropriate technology farther with his two-hour seminar about the simple product.

The invention is something that is so simple, cheap, and sustainable that anyone can create and maintain it themselves. As Diaz says, the three rules of appropriate technology are that people can find it, they can replicate it, and most importantly, they can make a business of it.

Not only does the Solar Bottle Bulb bring free, sustainable lighting to places that haven't had it before, it also creates a new market for people to install the bulb at a small cost.

The only downside of the Solar Bottle Bulb is that it only works during the day. But that hasn't stopped nearly 300 households, small businesses, and schools in San Pedro, Philippines, from installing Solar Bottle Bulbs.

This article originally appeared at Global Envision, a blog produced by Mercy Corps.

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