Light in a bottle

Posted on 14 November 2017.

The NGO Liter of Light has developed a "solar bottle". A lighting invention that reduces the volume of plastic waste while improving the lives of poor populations.

If you walk down some streets in Manila or Dakar you might be surprised to see funny street lights hanging from plastic bottles. This is the idea of the non-governmental organization Liter of Light, which aims to provide light where there is none. It is currently estimated that 1.5 billion people do not have access to lighting either because they are not connected to the network or because the electricity is too expensive. Fortunately, there is an alternative energy source which is free and easy to use: the sun.

Liter of Light was founded in 2011, in The Philippines, where Illac Diaz, its founder, was looking for a way to fight two plagues in his country: pollution from plastic waste and darkness in slums often built without windows. He then had the idea of upcycling old plastic bottles into solar lights.

The process cannot be simpler. Simply fill the bottle with water and add a little bleach to prevent bacteria from developing in it, then fix it on the roof of the house through a hole drilled in the corrugated iron sheet. The sun's rays are refracted by the water providing light equivalent to a 50 W bulb.
Faced with the success of this device, the NGO rapidly developed its original invention to allow populations to have access to lighting at night as well. To do this, Liter of Light teams equipped bottles with a very simple system consisting of a small solar panel, a PVC tube, a circuit, a rechargeable battery, and an LED bulb which are all parts available locally for about ten dollars. The panel captures solar energy all day and the LED bulb emits light at night in the home.
The NGO has also created street lamps for public lighting based on the same principle. This is a small revolution for the people benefiting from it. Indeed, having light at night in streets or houses means less crime and gives adults the possibility to continue working late into the night and for children to do their homework at home.
The plans to make this solar bottle are available to everyone. The NGO also encourages communities to make their own lamps to develop local economic activity. It lends the parts needed to build the first lamps asking them to be repaid once the activity begins to generate income.

Today, Liter of Light helps light 350,000 homes in over 15 countries. Illac Diaz has therefore achieved his goal of turning waste into a source of energy and hope for hundreds of thousands of people.


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