Soft drink giant Coca-cola has joined forces with New Hampshire based engineering firm Deka R&D to launch a project which takes shipping container recycling to a new level. The project will see the transformation of around 2,000 shipping containers into mini water purifying centres. The stations have been dubbed ‘Ekocenters’, and have been designed with developing and isolated communities in mind. The aim of the Ekocenters is to provide a facility that produces safe drinking water to these communities, but with the added bonus of wireless internet technology and solar panel charging.
A prototype of the Ekocenter is currently being trialled in the town of Heidelberg, South Africa, a town with about 70,000 inhabitants located not far from Johannesburg. The design of the container takes on the distinctive Coca-cola red colour and the 20ft (6m) long container is adorned with solar panels. It is equipped with a Slingshot water purification device which uses a vapour compression distillation method to provide clean drinking water.
The ground-breaking Slingshot was invented by Dean Kamen, President of Deka R&D, who might be better know for the invention of another device – the Segway. Slingshot was originally designed to be powered by cow dung and can change virtually any source of dirty water (including sea water and river water) into clean, drinkable water.
According to Coca-cola, “Each machine delivers approximately 850 liters (225 gallons) of safe drinking water per day using less electricity than a hair dryer (1 kWh).”.
The Ekocenter framework aims to employ “female entrepreneurs” who will look after the everyday running of the facility. Deka R&D and Coca-cola also anticipate that the centre will be used as a central hub for community activities. They also have plans to provide solar powered charging services for mobile devices or lamps, internet access, downloadable education kits and refrigeration units for vaccines and medicines.
The plan is for Ekocenters to be rolled out throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America. Estimations project that by the end of 2015 there should be enough Ekocenters up and running to produce approximately 500 million litres (132 million gallons) of clean water per year. Coca-Cola say they will aim to employ local workers to carry out maintenance and general upkeep on the Ekocenter’s water purifying facilities, ensuring the water meets international health standards and is safe to drink.