With many millions of people crammed into a compact area, waste management is a big problem in Bangladesh. What’s more, recycling is a concept that is yet to catch on in the country, and much of the waste lies strewn among the streets of its major cities. But one man has found a practical use for the vast amount of waste material available – and already it’s changing people’s lives.
Bangladesh has a population nudging towards the 170 million mark. This staggering number makes the South Asian country the eighth most populous in the world, while it ranks in tenth place for the number of people per square mile.
This already hefty number has been made worse by the country’s surge in population. Although the nation’s growth rate has dropped significantly from its 3.1 percent peak in 1970, its population is still expected to reach 180 million within the next ten years.
By way of comparison, while the America’s population is around double that of Bangladesh, the U.S. enjoys a far greater area in which to accommodate everyone. At over 66 times the size of the South Asian country, the U.S. has a population density of just 92 per square mile compared to Bangladesh’s 3,279.
Such a vast population, then, inevitably generates a huge volume of waste. Indeed, as of 2012 Bangladesh was thought to produce approximately 24.7 million tons of waste a year. And that number is expected to increase as the years go by.
Waste management, then, is a big problem in Bangladesh. In fact, a report published by the United Nations Population Fund named the country’s capital, Dhaka, as among the planet’s most polluted cities. And it’s a problem that the nation’s population growth only serves to heighten.
So, it’s timely that one Bangladeshi inventor has come up with an ingenious way to tackle a small part of his country’s waste problem. What’s more, not only is his invention good for the nation’s waste management, but it’s also of great benefit to its citizens and is good for the environment.
Ashis Paul works as creative supervisor at Grey Group, an advertising and marketing company in Bangladesh. And after overhearing his daughter’s physics teacher one day, he came up with a method to utilize empty plastic bottles in a way that would help Bangladeshi people.
After playing around with plastic bottles and cardboard sheets, Paul came up with a ridiculously basic invention. It’s one that would help residents in rural areas cope better with the searing Bangladeshi summers. Not only that, but it’s amazingly simple to assemble and completely free to make.
So what did Paul come up with? Well, first he gathered a number of plastic bottles and cut them in half across the middle. Then he took a large piece of cardboard and cut a series of evenly spaced holes in it. The holes were big enough to fit the necks of the bottles and spaced according to the size of the bottles.
Paul then cut away the tops of the bottle caps but retained the remainder of the tops. Next, he poked the necks of the bottles through each hole before fixing them in place by screwing the lids back on. The invention would then be hung in a window, with the narrow part of the bottle pointing into the room.
What Paul had invented was the “Eco-Cooler.” Mind-blowing in its simplicity, the contraption works as a form of air conditioning unit. Paul has, in fact, always been intrigued by science. Indeed, the invention came to life after Paul picked up on a basic scientific principle from his daughter’s tutor.
The device, then, works on the basis of the change in temperature of gas when it suddenly expands. When air enters the wider end of the funnel it is forced through the hole in the bottle cap. As it’s pushed through and comes out the other side and into the room, the air cools as it expands again.
It’s a theory that can be tested quite easily. If you were to blow on the back of your hand with a wide-open mouth, the air feels warm. Put your lips together and blow as if you’re about to whistle, however, and the air is cold. The same applies to the warm air of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has a subtropical monsoon climate. But although the country experiences monsoons from June to October and cool, dry winters, the summer months from March to June are particularly hot and humid. Indeed, in the height of summer temperatures range from 86 °F to 104 °F.
In rural Bangladesh, though, typical housing is built to withstand the monsoon season, not the hot summers. As Grey Group creative director Jaiyyanul Huq explained to current affairs website The Observers in 2016, “We are a flood-prone nation, so in rural Bangladesh, most people build their homes out of tin, instead of mud.”
He continued, “About 70 percent of Bangladesh’s population lives in these homes. But the problem with these tin huts is that they get unbearably hot in the summer, especially in northern and central Bangladesh. I’ve been in these huts. It’s like being in a sauna in the Sahara.”
The Eco-Cooler, however, has made a noticeable difference to the temperatures in those tin homes. It has been found that this most basic of designs can immediately decrease temperatures by around nine degrees. And when that means the difference between 95 and 86 degrees, it’s a welcome one.
The Grey Group, then, first began developing the idea in March 2015. And by February the following year, the Eco-Coolers had been installed in more than 25,000 homes in Bangladesh, free of charge. Pleasingly, giving back to local communities is core to the group’s principles.
“The beauty of it all is how easy these units are to make,” Huq concluded. “The raw materials are easy to find: people don’t recycle here, so the streets are littered with bottles. We show people how to make them, and then ask them to both do it on their own and to teach others. It’s free and people get immediate results!”