Tempo Magazine, Tempo.Co, Jakarta – After the discovery of microplastic contamination in water wells and pipe water, followed by traces of it in bottled water, another new study eventually found microscopic plastic debris tainting gallon water jugs.
The study was conducted on September 2021 jointly by Greenpeace Indonesia and the University of Indonesia (UI) Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory by testing samples of gallon-sized bottled water from two notable brands that utilize polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as the material for their bottles.
Their test found 95 microplastic particles per cubic millimeter from one brand and found the same results in another sample from a different brand packaged in 15-liter jugs.
Results are strengthened by an independent study by Tempo – partnering with the same lab – on refillable water jugs from April 26 to May 4 which resulted in microplastics found in test samples, though to a lesser degree compared to the Greenpeace test.
"Polycarbonate jugs have a stronger bond than PET so that fewer particles are released," said Agustino Zulys, head of the laboratory.
However, Agustino elaborated that there is a multitude of factors that may produce different sizes and particles between types of plastics or materials. Apart from the plastic variation used as packaging, other factors that can affect contamination are the quality of storage – prolonged storing under direct sunlight – and how long it is stored and the impacts the jugs sustain from the distribution processes.
Agustino's detailed explanation regarding this matter can be accessed in the latest edition of Tempo Magazine this week.
Microplastic findings in Jakarta and around the world
The report renews and complements the results of a similar test published five years ago in 2017 that was conducted by Orb Media, a non-profit journalistic organization, in collaboration with a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and the State University of New York, USA.
They studied 159 water samples from piped water networks and wells in countries around the world, including Indonesia. Tempo.co exclusively obtained these findings from Orb Media and was involved in simultaneously publishing them in a number of leading media around the world, including The Guardian.
A total of 159 samples came from eight regions across five continents. Among them are Indonesia (21 samples); New Delhi, India (17 samples); Kampala, Uganda (26 samples). Also in Beirut, Lebanon (16 samples); United States (36 samples); Cuba (1 sample); and, Quito, Ecuador (24 samples), and Europe (18 samples).
Of the 159 tap water samples taken from the five countries, 83 percent of them contained microplastics. The majority of microplastics found (99.7 percent) were 0.1-5 millimeters in size, which means these objects can be smaller than the head of lice (Pulex irritans) or the plankton that is invisible to the naked eye.
A year later, Orb Media turned to test bottled drinking water where the research was conducted in 19 countries and selected the most popular bottled water brand. In Indonesia, 30 samples were taken each from Jakarta, Bali, and Medan. The result was unfortunately similar as microplastics were found contaminating the samples.