S’poreans still addicted to buying bottled water from M’sia sold at 1,000 times S’pore tap water price
Funny thing is, water bottled in Malaysia uses water treated in Singapore.
News flash: Singaporeans are still addicted to buying bottled water.
And this refers to one specific type of bottled water that is horribly popular, despite its costs to the environment, people, and everything else in between.
Because revelation time again: Water treated in Singapore gets bottled in Malaysia and transported back here for sale.
In other words, people in Singapore are paying for Singapore-treated water put inside bottles in Malaysia.
So, who makes a profit from this practice?
Yes, Malaysia and the companies involved in making bottled water a thing.
Limelight on the curse of bottled water again
If all this sounds kind of silly, it is because it is.
The latest May 19, 2019 CNA article, “What will it take to kick Singapore’s growing multimillion-dollar addiction to bottled water?” is trying to highlight the problem.
Exorbitant price of bottled water
The problem, in a nutshell, is derived from the latest data from research firm Euromonitor International.
It showed that in Singapore
– sales of bottled water have been increasing steadily over the years
– from S$161.3 million in 2013 to S$179.4 million in 2018.
This figure includes sales of all types of bottled water, including still, carbonated, flavoured and “functional” water, which is marketing speak to refer to water enhanced with ingredients such as vitamins.
To put the cost in perspective: A 600ml bottle of drinking water is usually sold for between S$0.50 and S$1 here.
The same amount of tap water only costs 0.1 cent, making it 500 to 1,000 times cheaper than bottled water.
The plastic problem
Worse, plastic bottles are essentially single-use pieces of trash the moment they are produced because it serves one sole purpose: Convenience for consumers.
According to the Singapore Environment Council, most bottled water is sold in single-used plastic containers.
A 2018 study showed that 467 million polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles are used in Singapore each year — enough to fill 94 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
These bottles that are commonly used for drinks, sauces and marinades.
And the rate of recycling in Singapore is pathetic.
According to statistics from the National Environment Agency, only 6 percent of plastics were recycled in 2017, and 4 percent in 2018, CNA reported.
Addiction not easing
Worse, consumers in Singapore have been paying loads because of their addiction to bottled water.
They spent S$134 million on still bottled water in 2015, a 24 percent increase from five years before.
Bottled water comes from water in Malaysia
It was previously reported and confirmed by F&N and Coca-Cola that dominant brands of bottled water in Singapore — such as Ice Mountain by F&N and Dasani by Coca-Cola — are sourced from water supplies in Malaysia.
Citing the United Nations trade data, CNA reported that most of Singapore’s bottled water is imported from Malaysia.
To leave as little room for doubt as possible, this was what CNA reported, word-for-word:
When contacted in March this year, Coca-Cola confirmed that there has been no change in where it sources water for its popular Dasani brand. F&N added to its 2016 statement, saying that the process quoted then was “over-simplified”. It said that its water is a blend of “natural mineral water extracted from deep well and reverse osmosis water” that goes through a “stringent 5-tier filtration process that includes various filters.”
F&N said that its popular Ice Mountain brand of water is sourced and bottled in plants in Peninsular Malaysia.
Why Singaporeans are suckers for bottled water?
Euromonitor cited the reason consumers in Singapore are turning to bottled water: They want a healthier option besides all the sugary, fizzy, juice-like, and sports drinks out there.
Euromonitor added that bottled water is expected to continue its “strong growth” as a result of this continued switch.
And bottled water is conveniently sold everywhere.
The lack of water coolers or water fountains in Singapore public places and shopping malls is contributing to the reliance on bottled water.
Toilet faucets here can be disgustingly dirty, which makes water dispensed utterly unpalatable — even though they are fine.
Also, people want chilled or warm water — both options might be available if there were more water fountains.
Plus, there are successful campaigns against single-use plastic straws, but not much against single-use plastic bottles.
Tap water tastes fine
And to convince everyone that their bottled water bias is really just a bias that has both monetary, environmental and political costs, CNA cited a consumer test carried out by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students as their final year project.
Blind taste tests showed that the public cannot reliably discern bottled water from tap water when made to drink them side by side to make comparisons.
So, to perhaps convince more people in Singapore that bottled water is more than a banal evil, it is advisable to go beyond the monetary and environmental costs.
It is high time to raise the political dimension of the issue too.
Top photo via Tom Page