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Liter of Light



Written by: Monique Kassa | Plastic Bank

Illac, a successful entrepreneur in the Philippines, serves as the executive director at MyShelter Foundation, a nonprofit organization that makes life better for many Filipinos by fostering the use of recycled materials to build badly needed things like clinics and classrooms in rural areas of his country.

And you would never believe what they use to build those buildings… They use plastic bottles people have thrown away!

The idea for using plastic bottles came to Illac when he was trying to figure out how to address the lack of affordable building materials in the Phillipines, while meeting the health and education needs of rural Filipinos.

Working with others, he came up with the idea to use plastic empty plastic soda bottles as an ultra-low-cost building material. The bottles were in abundance in rural communities, but viewed as garbage until Illac figured out that they could use them for a higher purpose.

For many Filipinos, their new classrooms and clinics unleashed a whole new way to look at waste plastic. It’s called “upcycling” – taking something after its intended use and reusing it for a completely different purpose that solves a problem and meets a need at the same time. Plus, using local labor from the community meant that the economic benefits stayed in the community.

It’s pure innovation, accessible to millions of poor people around the world.

Upcycling is not just a one-off solution. It is a philosophy and an approach that can be brought to bear on many social and environmental problems. It’s this mindset which led The Plastic Bank to ask Illac to be an advisor in the first place.

Upcycling plastic bottles into schools and clinics was just the beginning.

One of Illac’s global success stories is the incredible Liter of Light project. Millions of people live in crowded slums and shantytowns around the world. Often, these dwellings don’t have something we all take forgranted – electricity and light. So people are literally in the dark in their own homes.

But Illac figured out another way to upcycle plastic bottles and bring light to peoples’ homes. Filling the bottles with filtered water and adding a little bit of bleach makes light glow – these bottles are then installed in the roofs to bring daylight below.

Today, thousands of homes around the world have been illuminated using this simple, low-tech approach. This simple source of light has created meaningful and immediate change in the lives of thousands of people.

These are the kinds of practical changes and concrete differences that can be made in peoples’ lives using what is already around us in abundance.

We just need to look at things in a new way. We need to reimagine what is waste, and what is opportunity. This is what The Plastic Bank is doing, and this is why we have launched our crowdfunding campaign.

Inspired by Illac’s work, The Plastic Bank takes the abundance of plastic waste and turns it into a currency that can help lift people out of poverty and clean up our planet at the same time.

Soon, we’ll all be looking at plastic waste in a whole new way.

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