Photo credit: Youth.SG/Audrey Leong

Singapore can’t flip the bottle habit

Water you doing with your bottles, Singapore?

Audrey Leong

Published: 28 December 2016, 12:00 AM

The humble water bottle. Cheap and easy to get from any supermarket or convenience store, these bottles are a great way to escape from the heat while you’re on the go.

However, this year, Singaporeans spent a total of $134 million dollars on bottled water, even though our tap water is way above the minimum standards set by World Health Organization and US Environmental Protection Agency.

Many tests have also concluded that tap water in Singapore is no different from bottled water.

If Singapore’s water is potable, and we still spend so much money on bottled water, this begs the question: Why can’t Singapore flip our water bottle habit?

For one, it’s much easier to buy bottles of water from the supermarket rather than bringing it from home.

A standard 600ml bottle of water costs roughly a dollar. If you’d like more water, you can get it for only a few cents more; a 1.5 litre bottle of water will cost just over $1.40.


The difference in price between tap water and bottled water is astonishing.


On the other hand, a cubic metre of tap water (1,000 litres) costs just over a dollar. The same 600ml of tap water would cost a fraction of the bottles sold at the supermarket.

If you were to solely rely on tap water, you’d have to bring a bottle of water in your bag, and once that runs out, there’s only few places where you can go to find water fountains in Singapore.

Well, you could go to public toilets to fill up your bottle from the tap, but would you really want to do that?

That’s a gross idea that I, personally, cannot cope with.


Would you want to drink water from the taps in the toilet, even if it’s squeaky clean?


Another reason could be that Singaporeans do not feel that the water in Singapore is clean enough.

You may have heard grandma saying: “You need to boil tap water before you drink it!” And, you may still do it out of habit today.

Well, I don’t blame you for wanting to boil the water, Singapore’s history with water hasn’t been the cleanest.

Before it was cleaned, the Singapore River carried the carcasses of dead animals that villagers threw into the water, which resulted in a huge stench.


How the river looked before the clean up.
Photo credit: The Straits Times


Even years after the river was cleaned, many still have fears about bacteria in their water.

Chief executive of PUB, Peter Joo, said that the average person in Singapore would rather shun recycled wastewater if given a choice. And he’s not wrong.

Roughly 20 per cent of Singaporeans still boil their tap water, wasting electricity just to reboil water that is already safe to drink and has gone through several rounds of disinfection.

It’s not easy to market recycled water as something safe to drink, and as we’ve already noticed, Water Wally’s NEWater is no match for the bottled water brands sold in supermarkets.

Perhaps bottled water looks and feels safer when you know it’s been through a factory from across the border.


This is the NEWater cycle, just in case you still think tap water in unsanitary.
Photo credit: Public Utility Board


Then again, it’s much easier for us to throw these bottles, rather than having to keep them in our bags.

On Orchard Road alone, rubbish bins line the street, with one stationed every 30 metres. It’s easy to see why in Singapore, it is more convenient to buy a bottle, finish it, and throw it away.

However, we tend to take for granted how easy it is to buy and throw these bottles away, even though this habit only increases our carbon footprint and hurts the environment.

This year, there was an increase of 159,000 tonnes of waste. A total of 7.67 million tonnes of waste was produced, 766,000 tonnes of which was plastics.


Just because there are bins everywhere, it does not mean we should be buying more bottles.


What’s the solution then?

Well, if you ask me, it starts with embracing the idea that tap water isn’t “gross”, though I still don’t see myself filling up my bottle from the toilet. We can start making bringing water bottles from home a conscious habit too.

It’s going to take a while for us to practise these habits, but maybe in the near future, Singapore can finally flip this bottle habit for good.

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