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In Guatemala and Timor-Leste, single-use plastic water bottles are saving lives

Amid all the plastic-bashing of single-use water bottles, the benefits that many people enjoy from innovative uses of these bottles have been lost in the shouting. For example, in two villages in Guatemala and Timor-Leste, plastic water bottles have become utilitarian tools, thanks to Oklahoma City–based World Neighbors.

World Neighbors is a 67-year-old NGO working to improve lives through holistic development encompassing sustainable agriculture and rural livelihoods, and supporting community-based natural resources management by creating low-cost, practical solutions to hunger, poverty and disease.

In Timor-Leste, near Indonesia, for example, discarded plastic bottles are used to build an irrigation system. Farmers put small holes in the bottles, fill them with water and place them near seedlings. It’s a quick and easy drip-irrigation method that greatly reduces water usage in climates with very dry conditions.


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