Campaign against bottled water borders on sheer idiocy

Why is there no mention of soft drinks, the manufacture and disposal of which poses the same or even greater environmental risks as bottled water, and which, unlike bottled water, is genuinely unhealthy to the human body?

Also, shouldn’t the campaign be FOR water coolers to be installed all throughout the island and for people to bring their own reusable containers?

Written by Ng E-Jay
15 July 2009

It was reported in the Straits Times article “Bottled water: People should be told the facts” that the Australian town of Bundanoon, south of Sydney, voted to ban bottled water last Wednesday, and that two individuals here are keen on campaigning for a similar move in Singapore. I was nothing short of flabbergasted when I read this.

Ms Leong Ching, a PhD student at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and Professor Tommy Koh, chairman of the Governing Council of the Asia-Pacific Water Forum, are reportedly planning to lobby all ministries, statutory boards, Temasek-linked companies, and educational institutions to consider stopping the practice of serving bottled water, on the basis that bottled water wastes resources and harms the environment.

Ms Leong, a former journalist, said: “I can understand why they drink bottled water in countries where they have no choice. But it is senseless when the (tap) water is fit for drinking (as is the case for Singapore).”

First off the bat, I have absolutely no objections to Government departments, statutory boards, and dining establishments such as restaurants providing only tap water as opposed to bottled water.

But if the campaign is also targetted at bottled water sold to the general public, it is nothing short of sheer idiocy.

Bottled water is an extremely hygenic, convenient and healthy means of hydrating the body when one is in public and is in need of a thirst quencher.

If bottled water is banned, wouldn’t that mean that people will instead have to opt for beverages like soft drinks, which are unhealthy as they tend to contain loads of sugar and other preservatives?

I personally rely heavily on bottled water while not at home, as a source of hydration throughout the day and after exercise. Perhaps Ms Leong Ching and Professor Tommy Koh would rather that I spend even more money loading up on expensive soft drinks or caffeinated beverages instead.

Without bottled water, if there is no water cooler nearby, I would have to go to the toilet to drink from the tap. Given the overall unhygienic state of public toilets in Singapore, I find that notion repulsive. Imagine calling ourselves a first world nation and then having to drink from a public toilet!

Concerns over the environmental impact of bottled water are most probably misplaced as well. The greatest threat to the environment comes from carbon and toxic emissions from heavy industries. It is true that non-biodegradable plastics such as those used in bottled water also hurt the environment, but if so, shouldn’t the emphasis be on soft drinks instead, as soft drinks are genuinely unhealthy to the human body and use both metals and plastics for containers?

Rather than campaign to ban bottled water, Ms Leong Ching and Professor Tommy Koh should instead be campaigning for water coolers to be installed throughout the island and for people to bring their own reusable containers.

I simply do not understand why a campaign has to be directed against something so innocent as bottled water, when there are far greater environmental threats, when there are far unhealthier products in the marketplace, and when bottled water is of such convenience to people on the move.

I also take offence at the notion of individuals going around trying to ban something just because they dislike it. It infringes upon the right of others to make informed choices and insensitively disregards the fact that those choices may be an important part of the lifestyles of others.

As reported in the Straits Times, the bottled water industry is extremely lucrative. Perhaps some soft drink manufacturers are feeling the heat as a result of people like myelf opting to drink bottled water as opposed to their sugar-laden concoctions.

Access to clean, healthy bottled water is to me a basic right. If Ms Leong Ching and Professor Tommy Koh insist on encroaching on my right to enjoy this magnificent product, I will oppose them come hell or high water.

13 comments on Campaign against bottled water borders on sheer idiocy

  1. This is not a zero-sum game. The alternative to bottled water is not soft drinks – it’s bringing your own in a reusable container. This is something I have done for a long time, something I have successfully encouraged my wife and kids to do too.

    The carbon footprint of commercially available bottled water far exceeds that of bringing your own water in a reusable water bottle.

  2. Well said. Flash in the pan type ideas to add to the other misguided attempts at ‘Saving Gaia’.

    There are so many other policies that should be addressed to reduce environmental destruction.

    Tommy Koh seems to be looking for something constructive to do and found this instead.

  3. On further analysis, this initiative is a result of

    1. pump priming an institute to achieve excellence in Policy analysis
    2. the government shutting the door on criticism of their policies
    3. students and faculty not having avenues to expend their creative energy.

  4. The Shitty-times all-out attack has began.
    Chronology of events:
    2 VIPs said bottled watter no good.
    A peasant wrote into forum to rebut.
    The Shitty-Times posted an article about Australia banning bottled water.
    More articles by the shitty-times to help the 2 VIPs wipe their arses after shitting….

  5. yes, agree fully with John Zhang that bringing reusuable containers is the way to go …

    Now, the thing is to persuade the authorities to install water coolers all throughout the island!

    Just take a trip down any MRT station, or bus interchange, shopping mall, etc

    How many water coolers do we see???

    Hardly any!!!

    Tommy Koh and gang should be petitioning for water coolers, not campaigning against bottled water!!!!!!!!!

  6. Perhaps you didn’t know that the production of plastic bottles use up a significant percentage of processed oil, and are also non-bio-degradable?

    Plastic bottles are also a prime source of litter in our water system and the oceans. You may conscientiously dispose of your water bottles but others whose bottles drop on the floor don’t care; what they don’t know is that the bottles are washed into the drains, then float down through the larger rivers into our surrounding waters. Not only do disposable bottles incur one-use oil wastage (along with pollution from production processes, its lingering presence for thousands of years will affect marine ecosystems and our environment.

    Like the first commenter said, it’s definitely not a zero-sum game.

  7. Back in primary school, my mom always forced me to carry a water bottle to school. Now, this early education is lost with the easy access to bottled water everywhere. I think putting a restriction on availability of bottled water is not a bad idea.

    As to installing water cooler everywhere, it might not be such a good idea because it needs electricity to run and would be wasteful (plus it’s unlikely the Gahmen would “sponsor” the maintenance cost).

    Simpler water dispensers would be preferable. Actually, this already available in most food courts and hawker centres. It’s the same sink/tap used for hand washing (which was put in place since the SARS hygiene campaign?) I.e. not necessary have to top up from the toilet.

  8. Our dear friends who kick started the campaign against bottled water will face an uphill task when lobbying to ministries. The fact that some key ministers’ (names withheld) insistence on consuming branded ‘Evi…’ bottled water during visits and events says it all.

    If our tap water is good as claimed by PUB, our ministers should take the lead by first consuming them rather than vice-versa.

  9. The bottled water battle continues to grow. I especially like the argument that encourages you to bring water with you in some sort of permanent container. Hope you like lugging around a giant four liter container, that’s the amount of water you should be drinking each day. If you don’t like carrying such a large container, you’ll probably carry something about the size of most water bottles and that will require you to refill it from what ever water source you can find. Most likely you will just purchase some other type of beverage which is probably in a plastic container. Hopefully, you won’t replace your healthy water with a soft drink.
    We all know that plastic pollution is a problem and if we want to make our earth a healthier place we all need to be creative and do something positive…it’s easy to just say “Ban the Water Bottle” but we’ll still have plastic pollution. Remember, almost every liquid that is sold today is in a plastic container. We decided to something about reducing plastic pollution and our efforts led us to develop the ENSO Bottle, a plastic bottle that can be recycled, composted or will biodegrade in a microbial environment. Our plastic bottles aren’t the answer to solving all our plastic pollution problems….it’s our effort toward providing a realistic approach toward reducing a growing problem.
    As a side note, don’t confuse biodegradable with degradable. Degradable plastic such as Oxo-Degradables PET plastic doesn’t biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until it’s too small to see…it’s still there and polluting. The other plastic out there being touted as solving all pollution woes is PLA (corn based plastics). PLA is primarily made from genetically altered corn or other food crops, increase the use of pesticides, use land that should be used for food grains, and doesn’t biodegrade in a landfill. The only way to get rid of PLA plastics is to dispose of them in a commercial composting site….try finding one of those.
    When the ENSO bottle biodegrades it leaves behind biogases and humus, the biogases can be captured and used to produce clean energy. We know our bottle won’t solve all plastic pollution problems but it is a step in the right direction.
    There isn’t one perfect answer; however, not having healthy drinking water available no matter where you are isn’t a good idea.

    “Bottles for a Healthier Earth”

  10. I would like to reiterate that the environmental problems today is not just about politics, it is about us human beings and how we want to live. Do you want our Earth’s resources to be depleted by the time your child grew up? Do you want our global temperature to increase to 3 deg Celsius by 2050, when your child reaches retirement age? Even though we may not live up to the future crisis, think about our next generations. Prevention rather than clean up is the strategy of the world now. It is up to the individuals, us, to take action now to prevent the problems.

    First it is important for individuals to take the initiative to understand the science, technology, and discoveries made before making choices. For example, when you purchase a product, think and find out how the product is made? Is it produced sustainably? How much carbon emissions go into making it? Is it depriving the local communities of their fair share of the profits (Fair-Trade)? Can the package be recycled or reused?

    Check out the environmental science topics:

    1) Click the video icons to access the videos
    Go to Video 8 – Water Resources

    2) Also check out the textbook that accompanied the videos just by clicking on the subject titles.

    3) Check out The flow documentary at youtube. They are broken down in parts of ten minutes.

    The reason that bottled water is emphasized is because some mineral bottled water in other countries are depleting the freshwater supplies of local communities. These big players have the technology to invest in water treatment plants in poor nations, often with corrupted governments. So instead of helping the poor access to the clean water, the big players charge a fee, which the poor is unable to pay. As a result, the poor continue to drink from the polluted rivers, part of it contributed by the bottled water plants. The bottled water may get imported to us without us realizing that we are contributing to the crime against humanity and equal rights to water! Another issue is that water cost zero, yet making the plastic and the processes going into making the bottled water produce much carbon dioxide, thus contributing to global warming. Plastics degenerate 1000 years or more, so it is not a sustainable material, unless we recycle it. To recycle it will also produce significant carbon dioxide as well. Therefore, it is a high through-put (high waste) product.

    If we cannot even stop this simple habit, how are we to even tackle other environmental problems at hand? Remember, individuals matter and be informed, not ignorant.

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