Old plastic bottles might seem pretty useless, but communities living in poverty are using them to make their everyday lives much better. From making water drinkable, to lighting up dark houses, each of these innovative open-source solutions are low cost and easy to implement with local methods.
Lighting Dark Homes
It’s easy to take electric lighting for granted, but in many areas it’s a complete luxury. Liter of Light is a project which transforms ordinary bottles into glowing bulbs that cost little or nothing, never burn out and are as bright as an electric bulb. Each bottle is filled with water, a bit of bleach so they don’t grow algae, and inserted into a hole in the roof. Getting daylight in their homes greatly increases peoples well being and daily productivity.
Houses Built with Bottle Bricks
A village in Nigeria is using plastic bottles to provide shelter, packing them with sand and then using them as the bricks in a cement wall. It’s a technique which has already proven itself in Asia, Central and South America.
The walls cost about 1/3 that of a house made completely from cement and are even stronger than bricks. The heavy walls absorb heat during the day, keeping the house cool, then slowly release that heat through the night to keep it warm.
Purifying water with Sunlight
Contaminated water is a huge health risk around the world, and more than two million people per year die of water-borne diseases. In many areas where clean water is increasingly hard to find, SODIS, or Solar Disinfection, is a smart low-tech solution. By laying water filled bottles in the sun, it is subjected to increased heat and UV light which kills bacteria, viruses, protozoa and even worms. In just 6 sunny hours, a bottle is safe to drink.
Houses made from Compressed Plastic Waste
EcoDomum, a startup in Puebla, Mexico is combating a big plastic waste problem and lack of housing with one smart solution. They’re taking the country’s mass of plastic garbage and recycling it into building materials for affordable housing. First they sort the plastic into non-toxic varieties, then cut it up, heat it and roll it into panels similar to a sheet of plywood. A complete, long-lasting house costs just 5,000 pesos (or approximately $280 USD) after government subsidies.
Honorable Mention: Transporting Water
Clean water is one thing, collecting it is another. Women and children are often responsible for water collection in rural communities, walking an average 3.7 miles every day to collect it. The Hippo Water Roller might not be made from waste bottles, but it is a bottle that’s changing lives. Using a plastic water drum as a wheel, it transports 90 liters of water with ease, doing more than 4 times the work of a 20 liter bucket carried on the head in just one trip. Approximately 45,000 Hippo Water Rollers have been distributed since 1991, carrying about 7 Billion liters of water and positively helping at least 300,000 people. Hit up the Hippo Roller site to see how you can help.