1.2 billion people worldwide lack access to a clean water supply, and nearly 2 million children die each year just from diarrhea (which is often water-borne). SODIS solar water disinfection systems offer a solution to these pressing issues by disinfecting contaminated water using the sun’s UV-A rays. Over the course of six hours, exposure to solar energy destroys harmful viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, rendering the water safe to drink. Although specially-designed SODIS bottles exist, ordinary PET plastic bottles work just as well – plus they are abundant, durable, and allow UV radiation to pass through them. In some places, this technique has reduced the incidence of diarrhea by over 85%.

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PET plastic bottles are certainly wasteful and should be avoided whenever possible – however they can actually double as water disinfection tools. In fact, cleaning polluted water by bottling it and leaving it in the sun is a practice used by over 5 million people in developing countries.

Approximately 750,000 new people are adopting SODIS systems each year. A recent report by Swiss economist, Urs Heierli, suggested that the key to increasing SODIS use lies in creating a business model around it. Instead of having NGOs hand out empty PET bottles, small businesses should sell them and use social marketing campaigns to increase demand.

But can this be done with ordinary, reused PET bottles? Or will consumers only buy desirable products whose sole function is water disinfection, such as specially designed SODIS bottles? Whatever the form SODIS takes, here’s hoping that water-starved consumers drink it up.

Via Fast Company