Eco-friendly Jakartans struggle to find facilities for refilling water bottles

Green movement: Students line up to refill their bottles with drinking water at Nusantara Multimedia University in Serpong, Banten, recently. The university provides free drinking water in an effort to reduce students’ dependency on water in single-use plastic bottles. Source: Narabeto Korohama - The Jakarta Post

As concerns rise about the growing waste in Jakarta, many residents are attempting to minimize contributing to the problem by bringing their own reusable water bottles and buying fewer bottles of bottled water to reduce waste from single-use plastics.

However, their eco-friendly efforts have met with a troublesome challenge: the lack of public facilities for refilling their water bottles.

Akh Kamali Hidayat, a 25-year-old office worker from Tangerang, Banten, said he was unable to locate any drinking fountains for refilling his water bottle.

"I know Jakarta has several drinking fountains, but I've never refilled my water bottle at drinking fountains because I don't know where they are located," he said on Wednesday.

Kamal said he bought a 1-liter reusable water bottle so he would not run out of water at work or during the commute to his office.

"I fill my water bottle at home and refill it at the water dispenser in my office. Although it's heavy to carry around, I intentionally bought a large water bottle so I would never run out of water during my trip to the office," he said.

Like Kamal, 24 year-old housewife Fitri Anggraeni from Depok, West Java, is among those who are making an effort to reduce buying bottled water for environmental and financial reasons. Almost every day, Fitri fills two reusable bottles with infused water — fruit, vegetables and herbs immersed in cold water — for her and her husband.

"I and my husband choose to drink from reusable water bottles because it is cheaper and it can help reduce waste. Besides, my husband and I love drinking infused water, which is healthier and tastier compared to regular bottled water," she said.

Fitri had a little more luck in locating a drinking fountain than Kamal.

"I've refilled my water bottle at a drinking fountain at the GBK stadium. The water tasted fine. I certainly don't mind refilling my water bottle at drinking fountains, but I haven't found any outside the GBK stadium," she said, referring to the Gelora Bung Karno sports complex in Senayan.

Niara, a 24-year-old student also from Depok, said that even though she had switched to a reusable water bottle some time ago, she had never found a drinking fountain for refilling it.

"I have never found a drinking fountain in a public area, even though I commute by train to my campus in South Jakarta almost every day," she said. "If I become thirsty during my commute but I've run out of water, I just buy bottled water at a train station."

RefillMyBottle, a map showing locations where reusable bottles can be refilled with drinking water that is available both online and through a mobile app, has not come in handy since such locations are scarce in the capital.

City-owned water company PAM Jaya president director Priyatno Bambang Hernowo said the utility company currently provided 30 drinking fountains in the capital and planned to more than double the number by 2020.

"PAM Jaya and its corporate partners PT Aetra Air Jakarta Palyja and PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya currently manage 30 drinking fountains in the capital city. They are located at several elementary schools, mosques, local government offices, an MRT station and the Setu Babakan Betawi cultural village. This year, we're planning to add 41 more," he told The Jakarta Post.

Hernowo said the 41 drinking fountains would be installed in public areas, including Istiqlal Grand Mosque, LRT stations, churches, Islamic centers, puskesmas (community health centers) and city-owned general hospitals (RSUD). He said that PAM Jaya was also considering installing drinking fountains in tourist destinations like Ancol.

He added that he hoped the additional drinking fountains would encourage Jakartans to use reusable water bottles and reduce the volume of plastic bottle waste that the capital produced.

Jakarta produces 2,400 tons of plastic waste, which comprises 34.2 percent of the 7,000 tons of waste it produces daily.

Hernowo also said that PAM Jaya's drinking fountains complied with the Health Ministry's standard for drinking water quality.

"Every month, our employees check the water quality of each drinking fountain to make sure it corresponds with the quality standard set by the Health Ministry," he said. "To encourage more Jakartans to drink from the water fountains, we are also providing information on the location of our fountains though our social media platforms."

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