NGO urges gov’t to mull ban on plastic bottles

Posted on  07/06/2014  |  Media Centre

Plastic bottles strewn around at Berakas beach yesterday. Picture: BT/Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Plastic bottles strewn around at Berakas beach yesterday. Picture: BT/Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Quratul-Ain Bandial

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A LOCAL environmental group has urged the government to mull a ban on plastic water bottles, similar to the one recently intoroduced in San Francisco, USA.

Rizan Latif, head of the Beach Bunch, said plastic bottles have a hugely detrimental effect on the enivronment, taking 450 years to decompose, compared to 20 years for plastic bags.

During a presser for the National Environment Conference last Tuesday, Rizan urged the government to consider the benefits a ban on the sale of plastic water bottles would have on the country.

“People think with the ‘No Plastic Day’ (at major supermarkets three days a week), we are doing enough. But plastic bottles have a much more negative effect on the environment,” he told The Brunei Times.

Brunei’s population generates more rubbish per capita than many of its regional counterparts — such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand — at 1.4kg of waste per person, per day.

According to government statistics, 16 per cent of this waste is plastics.

Rizan said local bottled water manufacturers have mushroomed over the past two decades due to low production costs and high profit margins.

The monthly tariff for domestic water use is 11 cents per per cubic metre (1,000 litres) for the first 54 cubic metres, and 44 cents for every cubic metre thereafter.

This bargain-basement tariff has made the Sultanate the highest water consumer in Southeast Asia, with Bruneians guzzling water at a daily rate of 420 litres per head, compared to Singaporeans who use 150 litres daily at a rate of $1.17 per cubic metre.

“The cheapest way to make bottled water is through reverse osmosis which is basically using a filter to get rid of physical particles only, such as sand, which is still drinkable,” said Rizan.

“All they need to add is just packaging. That’s why there’s so many bottled water companies now.”

He acknowledged that a plastic bottle ban would negatively affect businesses — from bottled water manufacturers to convenience stores.

“The problem with banning plastic bottles is what is the alternative? It is a lifestyle choice – you can always drink straight from the tap or bring your own bottle, which unfortunately in Brunei is inconvenient. But there are people who do it.” The environmentalist added that the appeal of bottled water is the notion that it is cleaner and safer than tap water. However, many restaurants use tap water in drinks and ice, which we consume unknowingly.

“As much as we would like the freedom to follow the model coming from San Francisco, this initiative has to come from the government,” Rizan said.

The US city San Francisco approved the measure in March, banning the sale of plastic water bottles on city-owned property.

The move has seen strong protests from the beverage industry, who says consumers should have the freedom to decide how they drink their water. Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles a year.

The Brunei Times