News / Asia

Soda Bottle Solar Bulbs Bring Light to Thousands in the Philippines

Sheila Royeras admires the soda bottle solar bulbs that were installed in her shanty home. The bulbs are made out of a soda bottle, purified water and some bleach. San Juan City, Metropolitan Manila, Philippines, November 18, 2011.
Sheila Royeras admires the soda bottle solar bulbs that were installed in her shanty home. The bulbs are made out of a soda bottle, purified water and some bleach. San Juan City, Metropolitan Manila, Philippines, November 18, 2011.
Simone Orendain

Thousands of small houses in low-income areas of the Philippines’ capital region are receiving ultra cheap, energy-efficient light bulbs this week. The installations are part of a broader push to install the bulbs made from plastic soda bottles in one million homes by 2012. 

Sheila Royeras says she, her husband, her mother and two children spend much of their time in the dark - even during they day. Their tiny house sits less than a meter from a two-story building under construction and among close, cramped units. Natural light comes in only through the small front door. They cannot afford to use electric lights during the day.

On a recent morning, volunteer workers outfitted Royeras’ house with solar light bulbs made out of used plastic soda bottles, some purified water and bleach.

The workers cut a circle exactly the size of the bottle’s diameter into the corrugated metal roof. The one liter bottle, filled with water and two caps-full of bleach- to keep it clean and clear- is placed inside the hole, with half of the bottle poking through the roof to the inside of the house. The bottle stays in place with sealant - to keep rain out - and a small metal brace that is hammered into the roof. The liquid inside refracts sunlight and disperses about 55-watts of light into the house below. The bulbs have a five-year life.

At the end of the installation, the 15-to-20 square meter house is illuminated by three solar bulbs. Speaking in Tagalog, Royeras says having the free lights will bring a lot in savings.

Royeras says she is much happier because she expects the next electric bill to be quite a bit lower. She laughs and says she will be able to buy food for her family.

Illac Diaz, who heads the non-profit MyShelter Foundation, which is heading up this project, says in the tropics poor people live in cramped, darkened areas sealed off from rain and the searing sun. Diaz says residents should opt for this kind of bulb, instead of relying on candles or other potential fire hazards.

“It’s safer. It’s healthier," says Diaz. "It’s brighter and the funny thing is the light bulb actually comes from the place you’d least expect it, which is the trash bin. So it’s the cheapest light bulb in the world.”

Government officials say the Philippines has the highest electricity rates in Asia. Diaz says this low-tech alternative to energy efficient light bulbs will save customers an average of $10 per month on their electric bills.

The light bulb project is also set up to help poor people gain employment. The foundation currently pays a small fee to scavengers who collect the bottles and assemble and install the bulbs. Diaz says some are making a business of it.

“Once we give the technology to grassroots entrepreneurs to build it," said Diaz. "There is no limit to where it goes.”

Diaz says he has helped set up offices in Mexico, Columbia and India, where other non-government agencies have started the lighting project.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs