By Rina De Silva
KUALA LUMPUR: Bottled water is exacting a heavy price on the environment.
Carbon dioxide was released in the manufacturing of plastic bottles and transporting the bottled water, said the Centre for Environment Technology. Its director, Gurmit Singh, said for every litre of petrol burnt, 2.5kg of carbon dioxide was released.
"The heavier the load of transportation, the more petrol is needed and more carbon dioxide is released."
He added that carbon dioxide was also released in the manufacturing of plastic bottles, another major way that carbon dioxide is emitted.
Environmental groups said the bottled water industry was environmentally unfriendly as it used a lot of plastic.
They said water was too bulky to be transported in small bottles as this meant more fuel was needed to bring them from the bottling plants to the consumers.
Suzana Mohkeri, coordinator of Global Environment Centre, said: "Malaysians should bring their own filtered or treated water from home instead of buying bottled water."
Gurmit said transporting bottled water over long distances caused pollution and used subsidised fuel.
Suzana agreed. "Transportation is the biggest air polluter. We are wasting a lot of fuel and contribute to carbon emission, which in turn negatively affects our air quality and our climate."
Gurmit said even though water bottles could be recycled, most Malay-sians did not recycle them.
"The best method to store water is using a glass bottle but most do not like to use glass because of its weight."
He advised consumers not to reuse plastic bottles once the colour changed from clear to opaque.
"Plastic will degrade if exposed to the sun so it is better not to use the bottle again and don't ever burn plastic because toxic gases will be released."
Suzana said the environmental damage caused by using plastic bottles included wastage of resources such as water and energy because bottles were not being reused and new bottles had to be manufactured.
The Consumers Association of Penang reiterated its stand made in the early 1990s that bottled water was not safe.
In 1994, CAP did an investigation in Selangor which revealed that the extraction and bottling of mineral water was done at unhygienic sites which were not protected from pollution, including near an oil palm plantation.
Its president, S.M. Mohamed Idris, said consumers would have been better off, health-wise, to drink tap water.
"If they boil tap water at home, it will be just as good to drink without losing the essential minerals."
He said customers could install a filter to remove sediments or check the piping in the house if the tap water was dirty.
Idris said many brands and prices were also confusing consumers.
"Consumers may think that an expensive bottle water is better than the cheaper one. Reverse osmosis water is reverse osmosis water. One brand cannot be better."
A check in supermarkets showed that a 500ml bottle of water ranges in price from RM1.19 (S$0.49) to RM7.49 (S$3.05).
"Litre for litre, bottled water can cost more than petrol yet no one is making a fuss about it."