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Plastic bottle sees the light

At the Creating and Leveraging Intellectual Property in Developing Countries (CLIPDC) conference in Durban, Michael Suttner showed off his idea of creating low-cost lighting using just a two litre plastic bottle and solar panels, writes RAYMOND JOSEPH.

He realised that before him was the solution to the conundrum that brought together the different elements he had already discovered, into his uniquely African lighting solution.

These included flexible, rapid charging solar panels that give 40 hours of light after eight hours of charging in sunlight and have a life of four to five years, plus a micro lithium ion battery.

‚”I saw the filter fitted into the water bottle and everything I had been investigating and thinking about suddenly crystallised in that moment,‚” says Suttner.

He already knew the World Health Organisation stats of how the poorest people in Africa, with an average salary is $1 to $2 a day, were spending 20 percent of their daily income on lighting, equating to a mind boggling R380 billion annual spend. And, again according to the WHO, how 2 million people were dying each year of pneumonia induced by paraffin fumes.

It also answered two other big problems Suttner, a mechanical engineer by training, was trying to solve: how to distribute his product without incurring huge manufacture and transport costs?

Known as The Lightie, his simple, but ingenious, light is designed to fit into an easily available receptacle the ubiquitous plastic cool drink and water bottles found all over Africa.

His aim is to produce the product in South Africa and is working on a cost price of $2 to $3 and a retail price of $8 to $10 making it, with the savings on paraffin and candles, very affordable to even the poorest.

Michael Suttner with his invention, in front of a shack, the kind of home in which many of his target audience

‚”Coca Cola is available all over Africa, so there is no shortage of plastic bottles and I also hope to do a distribution deal with them for the actual product,‚” said Suttner, who has been chosen to pitch his product for seed funding at this week’s CLIPDC conference.


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