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Old Plastic Bottles Bring Light

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By Debra Atlas

PHILIPPINES — Millions of people in the Philippines live in (relative) darkness. The cost of electricity is beyond the means of many, so residents of poorer communities resort to candles or kerosene lamps, which pose serious health and fire hazards.

Using electricity 24 hours per day, something most of us take for granted, raises a household’s expenses by approximately 40 percent. In a country where the average income ranges from minimum wage to less than $1 a day, this added expense is not seen as crucial.

However, there is an incredibly simple solution that is both greener and safer.

The Solar Bottle Bulb was originally developed by students at MIT and spearheaded by Mac Diaz, the innovative founder of MyShelter Foundation. It uses plastic water bottles and a little bleach to bring light to the darkness.

To create the bulb, developers fit 1.5 liter plastic bottles containing water and bleach snugly into holes in a metal roof. Sunlight refracts through and off the water, creating free solar lighting equivalent to 55 or 60 watts of clean white light. The bleach inside the bottles prevents algae from forming inside them. The bottles do not heat up and are designed to produce clear light for approximately five years.

The MyShelter Foundation is currently distributing thousands of these lights to homeowners across the Philippines, where oftentimes homes are built so close together that little to no light can get through the windows.

The Isang Litrong Liwanag (“A Liter of Light”) project is a sustainable lighting project whose aim is to bring light to low-income communities. The organization envisions lighting 1 million homes by 2012. So far, they have distributed 10,000 solar bulbs.

The installation of these bulbs is brightening more than the homes they light: They are helping to create a better quality of life for entire communities.

Check out more articles by Debra Atlas.

© 2011 SCGH, LLC.

9 Responses to “Old Plastic Bottles Bring Light”

  1. paul Says:

    It is very interesting, in India we have many villages having no electricity & they use paraffin lamps for lighting.

    The soda bulb will work only in the day when sum shines, but about night, when there is no sun shine.

    could you please tell me about to pass on the same to village folks

    Thank you

  2. Robb Benson Says:

    you should contact a company called VP and E they have made a self contaied solar bulb that works for 20000hrs on a charge so it will work at night but it is pricy about $4.00 but they might be able to also put an outlet on so there could be some electrical potential

    If you do contact I would ask them if they may have an additional sleeve or what it would cost if they haven’t already made a product for round the clock lighting. I am not sure if it was them but I recall something from the university that was along those lines but if my memory is correct it would add another 50 cents to the bottle.

  3. Asante George Says:

    I love this! This is an amazing idea for DIY green builders everywhere. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Daily Positive News- Monday, December 5, 2011 | Says:

    [...] Old Plastic Bottles Bring Light: Sierra Club journalist Debra Atlas reports on DIY light bulbs made from recycled materials used in the Philippines. “The Solar Bottle Bulb was originally developed by students at MIT and spearheaded by Mac Diaz, the innovative founder of MyShelter Foundation. It uses plastic water bottles and a little bleach to bring light to the darkness.” [...]

  5. Carlos Mangasep Says:

    pleas tell me how to do this plastic bottle bring lights by sending in my email thanks

  6. FettFan84 Says:

    What if they were made of glass instead? An enclosed glass cylinder with a 9″ diameter and a 3″ thickness, filled with the water and bleach solution.

  7. Juliet Blalack Says:

    We discard a lot of plastic bottles, so this is a good use of one wastestream. Also, the glass might get too hot. It’s something worth looking into though! Glass is definitely more sustainable than plastic, and it would be great if we stopped using and discarding plastic bottles.

  8. Cantoo Says:

    Hi, besides wasted empty bottle, and water. Anything else material to make the lights? Can you teach me? Please email me. Thanks.

  9. John Goolsby Says:

    Right now I a looking for a source for an antifreeze that is as transparent as water. My cabin is at 9,600 ft. in the Colorado Rockies, and it’s lible too freexe on the 4th of July.

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