Solar lanterns offer smart reuse concept for plastic bottle waste

A cheap lighting concept which creates solar lanterns from plastic bottle waste is being trialled by designers in the hope it can be scaled up for commercial production.

Turkish creative firm Designnobis has developed what it calls ‘Infinite Light’ – a lantern made by reusing an empty plastic bottle and fitting it with a flexible solar panel and batteries. The solar panel sits inside the bottle and collects sunlight during the day. It then switches over to battery power at night once the solar energy has been depleted.

The lantern is held together by a frame, with a handle so that it can be hung up or carried around. The concept, which has already won an eco-innovation award, is intended to highlight the growing importance of waste materials as a resource.

Designnobis says the concept can help address two problems in tandem – the growing tide of plastic bottle waste and the millions of rural households in developing countries which do not have access to electricity. It points to the fact that some 200 million plastic water bottles are consumed worldwide every day, yet only 9% are being recycled.

A company statement on Infinite Light said that it strives to answer the needs of lighting of poverty stricken people.

“This simple solution provides light basically with flexible solar panel and the batteries which are placed in PET bottles. The lighting unit does not require any infrastructure and it is a ready-to-use package that can be placed in a discarded plastic bottle. Durable and long-lasting, product aims to enlighten homes through a sustainable, inexpensive design.”

Designnobis points out that since plastic bottles are plentiful, the devices are easy to assemble at a local level. And as the bottles are being reused for the main part of the lantern, it claims to have a smaller carbon footprint than more conventional solar lamps.

The company is now looking at how it can commercialise its concept – one of the options being considered is a crowdfunding campaign.

This innovation follows work by researchers to generate lighting from recycled plastic bottles. In February edie reported that a sustainable lighting system had been developed by Spanish firm Ona Product SL, housed in recycled PET casing.

The design is new to the market and uses ultra-low watt light emitting diodes (LEDs) which consume about seven times less energy than traditional incandescent lights, according to an independent study led by Nottingham Trent University.

Maxine Perella

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