In a bid to encourage Singaporeans to reduce plastic waste resulting from single-use plastic bottles, four final-year students at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have decided to launch the “Drink Wise, Drink Tap” campaign.
Singapore is one of only several Asian countries with safe-to-drink tap water, with a comprehensive regime to ensure quality from source to tap comprising more than 400,000 tests yearly.
Speaking to TODAY Online on Friday (8 Feb), communication studies undergraduate at the NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information Erny Kartolo cited her mother’s former practice of buying water bottles in bulk as a significant factor or catalyst for the final-year project.
Ms Kartolo, 22, alongside her teammates Elaine Wong, 22, and Tan Yen Ping and Goh Pei Xuan, both 23, observed that in spite of the proliferation of metal straws in replacement of plastic ones amongst the public, on top of halting the distribution of plastic bags in schools, the use of plastic bottles remains widespread.
The team of final year students embarked on survey of approximately 300 people last September to investigate the reasons behind Singaporeans choosing to buy bottled water instead of drinking tap water.
57 per cent of the respondents revealed that they prefer bottled water while they were outdoors, with 32 per cent of respondents perceiving bottled water as safer than tap water, while 46 per cent cited the taste of tap water as a reason for preferring bottled water.
To counter the common perception among Singaporeans regarding tap water, the team had organised giveaways on social media and had participated in community events such as the Eco Day Out @ South West event at Hong Kah North Community Club in Jan this year, on top of spreading the message through social media channels.
Through the use of boards, the team assured the public that tap water is safe to drink, even without boiling or extra filtration, and even went as far as to conduct a blind taste test with two identical mason-jar dispensers, in which the majority of the people who took up the test were not able to differentiate between bottled water and tap water, according to Ms Goh.
The team’s efforts were lauded by Senior Minister of State (Environment and Water Resources) Amy Khor, who had met the team at the event and praised their campaign to build a “refill culture by encouraging people to bring their own reusable water bottles”.
“My entire family has been drinking tap water, so I can assure you that it is 100 per cent safe for consumption,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.
Ms Tan said – in a bid to normalise the consumption of tap water – that the team aims to collaborate with cafes and other dining establishments to provide free flow of tap water to patrons and the public alike.
Ms Kartolo said: “It’s to show the public that tap water is accessible everywhere — it could be a public tap, a water cooler or a nearby restaurant.”
The team has also collaborated with government agencies such as the Public Utilities Board and the National Environment Agency, the latter had given them the Climate Action SG grant and the National Youth Council’s Young ChangeMakers grant.
The public campaign will conclude at the end of next month, followed by “another survey to gauge its effectiveness in changing attitudes and behaviours towards tap water”.
While the team aims to take baby steps in pushing their message by primarily directing their campaign at individuals, Ms Wong highlighted that the use of plastic water bottles on a larger scale by organisations and events need to be kept in check, too.
“We are starting smaller first. We are trying to imbue in people’s minds that it’s acceptable to drink tap water and it’s perfectly safe. So, from there, it’s easier to ease them into behaviours along the chain,” she told TODAY Online.
Citing research by the Singapore Environment Council which was released last year, TODAY Online reported that people in Singapore “consume 1.76 billion plastic items each year, nearly 470 million of which are polyethylene terephthalate plastic bottles”.