Disposable. Sustainable. Plastic Bottles of Coke.

Disposable. Sustainable. Plastic Bottles of Coke.

Q:  What’s full of empty calories, packed in disposable plastic, saves energy, helps Earth’s ecology, and improves the lives of the world’s poor?

A. Coca-Cola in 1.5 liter plastic bottles.

It’s the bottles, not the sugary stuff inside them. Fill the empty plastic container with water and a touch of bleach (to suppress growth of clouding algae). Punch a hole in the corrugated steel roof of your shanty, make a secure metal collar for the bottle and use it to fix the container halfway-in. halfway-out of the house. Seal with a bit of caulk to make it water-tight. The sun will now fill the dark interior of your dwelling with the light of a 55-watt lightbulb, without electricity.

This simple action, installation of a cost-effective “solar lightbulb” or skylight, could vastly improve the lives of billions of poor people in sun-swept favelas, shantytowns, and bidonvilles and scattered rural dwellings around the globe. Watch a coke-bottle lightbulb being made in the Philippines. You don’t have to understand the language to appreciate the significance of the change in people’s’ daily lives.


“An Enlightening Experience,” Kara Santos, Philippine Daily Inquirer

“A Liter of Light,” MyShelter Foundation website

“A light, and a bright shiny object,” G. Rendell, InsideHigherEd.com 

Short link: http://wp.me/p6sb6-aKU

Video of Sitio Maligaya 1 in San Pedro, Laguna by “A Liter of Light” (Isang Litrong Liwanag).

Top image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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13 Responses to “Disposable. Sustainable. Plastic Bottles of Coke.”

  1. Nikhil Says:

    brilent idea

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    Mikhil: The project is being implemented by Manila’s remarkable Illac Diaz, no stranger to the concept of Appropriate Technology. He has also used earth-bag construction to improve housing in that city’s shantytowns.

  3. tarotworldtour Says:

    Thank you for sharing this! It’s just incredible what simplicity can do. We would be so much happier having these minimum investment infrastructure systems in place. I think about 20% of the population in the West will be going this way.

  4. MichaelEdits Says:

    The best inventions are the ones that make you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

  5. Mike Licht Says:

    MichaelEdits: This concept of light transfer has a long history. Sailing ships had “deck prisms” that conveyed sunlight belowdecks. Today we have several other options for “light tubes,” but this one costs pennies and the materials are available everywhere.

    This version has been independently invented before, notably by Brazilian engineer Alfredo Moser. The Manila project seems to be the first large-scale implementation for the benefit of the poor.

  6. Kate Conroy Says:

    Wouldn’t any old plastic beverage container work just as well? Why Coke?

  7. Mike Licht Says:

    Kate Conroy wrote: Wouldn’t any old plastic beverage container work just as well?

    Of course.

    Why Coke?

    Because readers outside of Manila are more familiar with it than Royal Tru, Sarsi, Jaz Cola, or Lift, popular softe drinks in the Philippines. They’re all made by Coca-Cola, anyway.

    And poor people don’t buy much Perrier.

  8. JW Says:

    SO great! Maybe Coca-Cola will find out about it and provide empties to those who need them – it’d be good PR for them, and would obviously be helpful! Here’s hoping!

  9. Mike Licht Says:

    JW: Coca-Cola and others use plastic bottles in the Philippines. And for the poorest of the poor, there is plenty of plastic waste , and Manila’s poor live next to it.

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