Turtle hatchlings sighted at East Coast Park: NParks

Channel NewsAsia 17 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Hawksbill turtle hatchlings that were trying to find their way to the sea at East Coast Park received a little help from National Parks Board (NParks) and members of the public.

The turtle hatchlings had been spotted on Wednesday evening by several park visitors, NParks said in a Facebook post on Thursday (Aug 17).

Bright street lights were distracting the baby turtles, which were trying to find their way to the sea, the agency said.

Working together with members of the public, NParks staff moved the hatchlings to a more suitable location. Video on NParks' Facebook page shows them helping to guide the baby turtles into the sea using the light from their mobile phones.

Said NParks: "We are encouraged by the community's efforts in helping these 32 young hatchlings start on their life journey!"

NParks urged the public to contact their helpline (1800-471-7300) and to keep their distance and "speak softly" when a turtle is sighted.

"Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Similarly, one should not handle the eggs as that might damage them," it said.


32 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings guided into sea at East Coast Park

Lydia Lam Straits Times 18 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - A couple getting ready to leave East Coast Park on Wednesday (Aug 16) evening were surprised to see small moving creatures at their feet, which they later discovered were baby turtles.

A 29-year-old salesman, who gave his name only as Mr Chia, told The Straits Times on Thursday that he was at Bedok Jetty with his wife when they saw a tiny creature on the ground around 10.30pm.

"After a closer look, we realised it's a baby sea turtle," he said. "To our surprise and astonishment - because it's the first time we've spotted this sort of thing at East Coast Park - we actually found more and more of them. We figured they were a bit lost, because they kept circling."

Mr Chia said there were some joggers and cyclists there so he and his wife stood there to prevent them from getting run over.

They also called the National Parks Board's hotline, and an officer arrived about half an hour after.

About 10 people had gathered by then. Together with NParks staff, the group transported the 32 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings to a more suitable location, where they were released at about 1am.

"We are encouraged by the community's efforts in helping these 32 young hatchlings start on their life journey," said NParks in a Facebook post on Thursday night.

Dr Lena Chan, group director at the National Biodiversity Centre, told The Straits Times that the group consulted the Marine Turtle Working Group in releasing the hatchlings.

"We would also like to take this opportunity to remind members of the public to contact the NParks helpline (1800-471-7300), and to keep their distance and speak softly when a turtle is sighted," she said. "Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Similarly, one should not handle the eggs as that might damage them."

Hawksbill turtles, which are sea turtles with mottled shells, have been regularly sighted along the Singapore Strait, according to NParks' website.

They are found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and females have been spotted coming ashore at East Coast Park to lay eggs.

Hawksbill turtle hatchlings crossing a pedestrian path

Female turtles typically do this at night, laying up to 200 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch after about two months, and the hatchlings make their way instinctively to the sea.

NParks on its website gives the following guidelines when encountering a turtle:

- Call NParks at 1800-4717-300.

- Keep your distance from the turtle and the eggs. Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Handling the eggs may damage them, or introduce bacteria into the nest.

- Talk softly and stay out of sight. Do not shine lights at the turtle or use flash photography. Light and noise may scare the turtle, and cause it to leave without laying any eggs.

- Keep clear of tracks left by the turtle. Researchers use the tracks to identify the species of the turtle and to locate the nest.


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More spaces on mainland Singapore to be used for OBS activities

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 17 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Students of Catholic High and Woodlands Ring Secondary tried their hand on Thursday (Aug 17) at paddling rafts in Punggol Reservoir, the first time that Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) is conducting adventure activities there.

It's part of the programme's expansion on mainland Singapore. OBS said it is looking to conduct more activities at Park Connector Networks (PCN) and water spaces in Punggol and Pasir Ris.

Together with the National Parks Board and national water agency PUB, OBS will organise cycling and kick-biking activities along the PCNs, as well as paddling activities such as rafting in areas like Punggol Reservoir.

Trekking and kayaking activities - currently held only out of OBS' main campus on Pulau Ubin - will also be explored.

This is to cater to the new Ministry of Education (MOE)-OBS Secondary 3 programme. The five-day, expedition-based, multi-school camp that kicked off in January is aimed at encouraging students to take on a more active lifestyle.

MOE had announced an expansion of the OBS programme in 2016, to promote the holistic development of students through outdoor education. To allow more students to benefit from OBS, a new campus on Coney Island, larger than the one on Pulau Ubin, is being built and will be completed in 2020.

STRETCHING STUDENTS TO THE FULLEST

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu joined students on Thursday at the paddle before a subsequent kick-bike ride with members of the National Youth Council (NYC).

"The beauty about Singapore is that although we think that it is a very small country, with effective use of our water bodies, our reservoirs, our rivers, our park connectors, our beautiful parks – actually we can do a lot more,” Ms Fu said.

She added that creative use of equipment, the environment, and the missions and tasks assigned could also test the values of “resilience, teamwork, cooperation and courage” that the programme hopes to inculcate in students.

A total of 4,300 students from 22 schools have taken part in the MOE-OBS Secondary 3 programme since January. Of these, 180 students have participated in the programme’s mainland expansion.

Source: CNA/mz


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Malaysia: Free fish not due to tsunami, merely additional catch of the day distributed for free

Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 17 Aug 17;

KOTA TINGGI: The sight of thousands of fish along Pantai Mansor, Tuan Seh in Tanjung Sedili on Tuesday has created quite a stir on social media.

It has also drawn just as many people who have turned up to ‘collect’ their share of the gifts from the sea.

Fishermen in the area said ikan gelama, ikan selayang and some small-sized ikan bawal and ikan senangin were hauled in and unloaded along the beach for all to take.

They said the fishes were caught with ‘pukat tarik’ nets.

According to the fishermen, villagers in Tanjung Sedili would head to the beach whenever they were told of the latest harvest. These small fishes were considered as additional catch to the fishermen and they will distribute it for free.

Many residents said it was common for a large number of small fishes to be found nearer to the shore, this time of the year.

Sedili Area Fishermen Association chairman Abdul Majid Abdul Rahman said this is not a case of fishes being washed ashore, unlike what is being claimed on social media.

He said fishermen in the area have previously hauled between two to 10 tonnes of fish whenever the weather condition is good and the season is right.

“Such things are a norm as fishermen would throw away big amount of small fishes on the beach for villagers to take for free.

“The rumour saying the fishes were washed ashore because of tsunami is untrue,” said Majid.

Keropok maker and fisherman Abd Rahman Abdullah, 54, said he and his wife, together with two of his friends, had opted to fish out in the open sea.

“In our first attempt, we hauled up 13 ikan gelama, puput and jemedi and in our second attempt; we caught 40 ikan gelama, prawns and other fishes.

“But my third attempt in laying the net led to a very bountiful catch. It was heavy and I waited until low tide and called some other fishermen to help pull the net to shore,” said Rahman.

He unloaded his catch on the beach and asked villagers to spread the word that the fish was free for all to take.

Sedili Fisheries Development Board Complex (LKIM) manager Kaismail Kadir said the viralled photo, which shows villagers squatting down collecting the free fish, has been verified by the board as they had gone down to personally speak to one of the woman in the photo as well as Rahman.

“The waters near Tanjung Sedili are teeming with these Grade C types of fishes, including ikan gelama and ikan duri.

“It was a bountiful harvest for one fisherman that day and he invited villagers to help themselves to it,” he said.


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Malaysia: No chance of haze over Games

The Star 18 Aug 17;

PETALING JAYA: Good news for participants and spectators at the 29th SEA Games – it’s going to be haze-free throughout the KL 2017 event, said the Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia).

While recent thunderstorms have brought heavy rains and floods in several states, the silver lining is that the downpours are dousing any chances of haze.

“With the SEA Games taking place, we were worried the haze might make an appearance but the recent wet weather, especially in the Klang Valley, has been good news,” said MetMalaysia director-general Alui Bahari.

Malaysia is currently experiencing the south-west monsoon – which is typically drier – but he said so far, there was no indication of a build-up of hot spots or forest fires in Malaysia or Indonesia due to the wet spell.

When asked about MetMalaysia’s forecasts on the downpours that had caught many off guard, Alui said there were two types of rain in the country.

“For rains brought by the monsoon, we provide two to three days’ advance warning,” he said.

However, for thunderstorms which occur when moist air near the ground becomes heated and rises to form cumulonimbus clouds that bring rain, Alui said these were harder to predict.

“It is harder to predict how intense it will get and we can at best only give two to three hours’ notice,” he said, adding that forecasters would know in advance where a thunderstorm was likely to hit.

“A three-hour warning for a thunderstorm is still okay but if you want a warning a day before or even earlier, it will be very difficult.

“In any country near the equator you will find that such a technology does not exist,” he said.

He said in most developed countries, the climate was temperate with four clearly defined seasons.

“The weather patterns in these countries form and hold for a longer time. In our country, where the climate is tropical, thunderstorms build up and last for a shorter period,” he said.

On whether MetMalaysia’s equipment could be upgraded to allow for further improvements in forecasting, Alui said those in its weather monitoring stations were all up to date.

However, there was an ongoing effort by MetMalaysia to widen and increase its weather radar coverage, he said.

There are various ways to keep up with the latest weather alerts from MetMalaysia, including following its official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/malaysiamet/), downloading its app myCuaca or a third party app Rain Alarm, which uses radar coverage.


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AVA, Sumitomo Chemical to start full-scale rooftop farming test cultivation

ANGELA TAN Business Times 17 Aug 17;

THE Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Sumitomo Chemical will begin full-scale test cultivation of farm produce on the rooftop of AVA's research facility this month, with the aim of establishing sustainable urban farming by 2018.

The project, which aims to promote urban farming to enhance food supply resilience in land scarce Singapore, sees the AVA and Sumitomo Chemical using rooftops of buildings for urban farming, based on Japan's proprietary technology. Other participants of the project include Kaneko Seeds from Japan, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Sumitomo Chemical will look into further specifics for the project, including a produce distribution system to be established. It will also set up an operational model for sustainable urban farming by around 2018, which it can use to expand the urban farming business in Asia and globally.

Commenting on the project, Damian Chan, executive director of Energy & Chemicals, Singapore Economic Development Board, said: "Agriculture chemicals is a speciality chemicals end-market that Singapore identified to have good growth potential, and where our innovation capacity and strong inter-agency collaboration could provide the foundation for companies to test-bed new innovative solutions before scaling them to the region."

Mr Chan added that Sumitomo Chemical's foray into urban farming demonstrates how Singapore can innovate to develop unique solutions to solve global problems such as food security.


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12 plots of farm land in Lim Chu Kang put up for sale on 20-year leases

Channel NewsAsia 17 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Twelve plots of farm land in Lim Chu Kang with longer leases of 20 years were put up for public tender on Thursday (Aug 17).

Nine are located at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, two at Neo Tiew Harvest Link and one at Neo Tiew Harvest Place, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in a news release.

The plots, which are intended for vegetable farming, range in size from 20,050.4 sq m to 21,239.9 sq m. They are part of the 60 hectares of land set aside by AVA earlier this year for food farming in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah.

This is the first tranche of a total of 36 plots which will be put up for tender from August this year. Another three plots for fish farming will be put up for tender in October.

In the second quarter of next year, seven plots for vegetables, quails' eggs and general food farming will be open for tender. The remaining 14 plots, for leafy vegetables, beansprouts and general agriculture farming, will be available from 2019.

LONGER LEASES TO GIVE FARMS MORE CERTAINTY: AVA

The longer lease period for new plots of farm land, an increase from the previously announced 10-year blocks, was announced in May after some farmers raised concerns over what they said was too short a time for them to invest in technology and automation.

The 20-year lease will give farms more certainty and let them invest in more productive technologies, AVA said then.

New methods will be used to tender these plots of land, AVA said. For leafy vegetables, fish, beansprouts and quail egg farming, a fixed price tender method will be used. Under this method, the land price will be fixed and those who make bids will compete purely on the tender proposals submitted.

A concept and price tender method will be used for general agriculture farming, where a tender will be awarded to shortlisted candidates with the highest land price.

The tender for the current tranche will close at noon on Oct 26.

Source: CNA/nc



Tender opens for 12 land parcels for vegetable farming
Kok Xing Hui Straits Times 17 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - Twelve land parcels for vegetable farming in Lim Chu Kang - the first to be tendered out on concept rather than price - were put on sale by public tender on Thursday (Aug 17) by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

This means that farmers will not have to worry about engaging in a price war to secure land.

Instead, their proposals will be judged on factors such as production capability, track record, relevant experience and qualifications, and whether they can harness innovation to improve and sustain production, and keep their businesses viable.

The lot prices are fixed and come at a 20-year term.

Plots have a land area of at least 20,000 sq m and are located along Neo Tiew Lane, Neo Tiew Link and Neo Tiew Place. Prices range from $13.62 per sq m to $14.92 per sq m.

A 20,167 sq m plot in Neo Tiew Lane, for example, will cost $276,000 for farming without an aquaponic system and $288,000 for farming with an aquaponic system.

Land prices were fixed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore's Chief Valuer's Office, which took reference from prices of agriculture land sold by the Government, said the AVA.

The 12 parcels are part of the 36 new plots of farmland in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah that AVA will put out on 20-year leases.

The other three types of farmland to be tendered out in this way over the next few years will be for quail eggs, food fish and bean sprouts.

Other plots for general agriculture food farms, such as frog and goat farms, will be tendered using concept and price. Proposals will first be evaluated on concept. Of the shortlisted candidates, the one with the highest bid will then win the tender, said the AVA.

The last time land was tendered out for agricultural use was more than two decades ago.

Tender packets containing details and conditions of tender of the land parcels are available for sale at the AVA Service Centre at Jem in Jurong. The tender will close at noon on Oct 26.

Come end-2021, the leases of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang will run out, and the land will be given over to military use.


Spurring R&D in farming
Audrey Tan Straits Times 17 Aug 17;

Instead of trying to get farmers to outbid one another for new farmland that will be released later this month, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will have them out-think the competition with their concepts.

When new farmland for growing leafy vegetables is released, the plots will be tendered out on a concept - not price - basis.

This means that the price of the land will be fixed, and farmers will not have to worry about engaging in a price war in trying to secure the land.

Such a tender method - adopted for the first time by the AVA - will give farmers more liquidity to invest in high-tech equipment or research and development (R&D) to increase productivity and yield.

Releasing land this way could help to push farmers initially sceptical about such investments to take the first step. This is especially so because their bids will be based on concepts instead, and judged on factors such as production capability, track record, relevant experience and qualifications, and whether they can harness innovation to improve and sustain production, and keep their businesses viable.

Under this fixed-price tender method, land will be parcelled out by farm type. Other than leafy vegetables, the other three farm types to be tendered out this way, over the next few years, will be for quail eggs, food fish and beansprouts.

This new tender method is an important move for Singapore's food security. It comes at a time when farmland in land-scarce Singapore continues to shrink and climate change poses a threat to global food supplies more than ever.

Currently, local food production meets less than 10 per cent of total food demand. Singapore has to step up its food security within the constraints of limited land - and the way to do this is through R&D.

But encouraging innovation would take more than a day. Mindsets have to be changed through policy, while also taking into account farmers' financial constraints. This tender method seems set to help do that.

Audrey Tan


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Fish mistaking plastic debris in ocean for food, study finds

Behavioural evidence suggests marine organisms are not just ingesting microplastics by accident but actively seeking them out as food
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 16 Aug 17;

Fish may be actively seeking out plastic debris in the oceans as the tiny pieces appear to smell similar to their natural prey, new research suggests.

The fish confuse plastic for an edible substance because microplastics in the oceans pick up a covering of biological material, such as algae, that mimics the smell of food, according to the study published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Scientists presented schools of wild-caught anchovies with plastic debris taken from the oceans, and with clean pieces of plastic that had never been in the ocean. The anchovies responded to the odours of the ocean debris in the same way as they do to the odours of the food they seek.

The scientists said this was the first behavioural evidence that the chemical signature of plastic debris was attractive to a marine organism, and reinforces other work suggesting the odour could be significant.

The finding demonstrates an additional danger of plastic in the oceans, as it suggests that fish are not just ingesting the tiny pieces by accident, but actively seeking them out.

Matthew Savoca, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and lead author of the study, told the Guardian: “When plastic floats at sea its surface gets colonised by algae within days or weeks, a process known as biofouling. Previous research has shown that this algae produces and emits DMS, an algal based compound that certain marine animals use to find food. [The research shows] plastic may be more deceptive to fish than previously thought. If plastic both looks and smells like food, it is more difficult for animals like fish to distinguish it as not food.”

Plastic debris in the oceans, ranging from the microscopic to large visible pieces, is recognised as a growing problem as it does not readily degrade and hundreds of thousands of tonnes are dumped in the sea annually. Larger pieces have been found in the intestines of whales and seabirds, where they are thought to be potentially fatal, while the smallest pieces have been detected in the guts of even juvenile fish and molluscs. Numerous species of fish eaten by humans have been found to contain plastic, and the effect of eating these on human health is still unknown.

Efforts to reduce marine plastic have so far had little effect: microbeads widely used in cosmetics and other products have been banned in the US, the UK and other countries, but they only solve part of the problem, which is mainly caused by dumping of plastic rubbish. There could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, campaigners have warned.

Scientists have struggled to understand exactly how the massive increase in plastics may be affecting the behaviour of fish and marine ecosystems, and how to contain the problem.

A previous paper published in the journal Science that alleged juvenile fish were attracted to microplastics “like teenagers after junk food” was withdrawn earlier this year after controversy. The scientists involved in that paper, who have no relation to the authors of today’s study, were suspected of having exaggerated their data or failed to carry out the purported experiments properly. The new paper did not draw on that publication.


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Singapore buildings ‘can withstand tremors from strongest quake’

They will remain structurally safe due to good construction, support from lift shafts: Experts
Jose Hong Straits Times 16 Aug 17;

When an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 hit Sumatra at the weekend, Singaporeans living in residential areas such as Sengkang and Tanjong Rhu felt the earth move.

As objects in their homes shook and rattled, the thought in many residents' minds was: Can my Housing Board block withstand the tremors?

"Yes" was the response of experts interviewed by The Straits Times.

"The quake would have to be three to four times stronger to cause some light damage in Singapore," said Associate Professor Li Bing of Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Even tremors from the strongest quake possible at the nearest fault zone to Singapore would not topple tall buildings here, like a 25-storey HDB block, the experts added.

Most likely, the building will experience low-level damage, but it would be structurally safe, said Assistant Professor David Lallemant of NTU's Earth Observatory of Singapore.

One reason is the lift shafts inside tall structures, he added. These shafts are built to support and prevent the buildings from swaying too much.

Prof Lallemant likened it to a shelf from furniture retailer Ikea: "The back part of the shelf - the metal 'x' - is what keeps it from swaying."

Another reason is that Singapore's buildings are well constructed, Prof Li said, adding: "Just as healthy people are less likely to get diseases."

In June 2000, Singapore was also shaken by tremors from an earthquake in Sumatra that measured 6.5 on the Richter scale.

They happened at around midnight and hundreds of residents from East Coast to Yio Chu Kang fled their homes as the series of strong tremors shook their beds and caused things to fall out of their cupboards.

Then Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng emphasised that such natural occurrences were normal. Singaporeans should not be too worried or concerned, he said, adding: "If the earthquake is very severe, then Singaporeans will of course feel it in their homes".

Since then, the Government has also adopted a set of building codes that includes guidelines on making new buildings more resistant to earthquakes.

It was introduced in 2013 by regulator Building and Construction Authority (BCA). Older buildings that undergo major renovations will be brought up to the new standards.

Around the same time, a study concluded that it is unlikely for a quake to occur near and powerful enough to damage buildings in Singapore.

It was done by Professor Pan Tso-Chien of NTU's Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management.

The fault zone nearest to Singapore is the Sumatra fault and the strongest recorded earthquake it generated was of magnitude 7.7 in 1892.

In 1943, an earthquake struck at the point of the Sumatra fault that is closest to Singapore, around 400km away. The most powerful tremor it caused was of magnitude 7.6.

A BCA spokesman told The Straits Times that seismic waves from earthquakes along this fault zone closest to Singapore would arrive here at levels not significant enough to cause structural damage to buildings.

However, senior research fellow Aron Meltzner of NTU's Earth Observatory of Singapore urged caution. Although no similarly powerful tremors have occurred along the Sumatra fault since World War II, this does not mean it will not happen in the future, he said.

"Magnitude-7.7 earthquakes have happened in our historical past. We should plan for the likelihood of that within our lifetime," he added.


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Malaysia: It’s not supposed to rain but weather experts know why

The Star 16 Aug 17;

PETALING JAYA: The heavy bouts of rain these few days are raising many an eyebrow because this time of the year is when Malaysia is, by norm, hot and dry.

But weather experts aren’t surprised.

“The downpour in many areas in Peninsular Malaysia is caused by the north-westerly winds coming from the Indian Ocean, transmitting high humidity to Malaysia.

“The rains in Sabah and Sarawak are caused by high moisture levels in the air and active oscillation, resulting in thunderstorms,” said Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment director-general Alui Bahari.

He said the rains would subside on Friday.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wira Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said firemen were busy responding to weather-related disasters. And so is the Malaysian Civil Defence Force (APM).

A spokesman told The Star that APM officers and assets were already deployed to flood hotspots.

“Our role is to carry out rescue operations and transport victims to the relief centres,” he said. “We also clean and inspect the victims’ homes for any venomous creatures.”

APM also provides training, especially to those living in flood-prone areas, on what needs to be done should a disaster occur.


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Malaysia: Higher cost of environs-friendly containers cause for concern

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 15 Aug 17;

JOHOR BARU: Many food operators are still hesitant about making the switch from polystyrene containers to environmentally-friendly food packaging due to the higher cost involved.

Federation of Hawkers and Petty Traders Association Malaysia president Yow Boon Choon said the difference in cost was about 1:3 in ratio and some of them were not keen to pay more for the environmentally-friendly food packaging such as biodegradable plastic containers.

He said such food packaging costs about 20 sen each compared to the few sen for each conventional polystyrene container.

Yow, also Johor South Petty and Mobile Traders Association chairman, said the traders did realise that it was a healthier choice and better for the environ­ment to make the switch but that the cost is still a main concern for them.

“At least 30% of the food operators in Johor have already made the switch from polystyrene ahead of the state government’s move to make Johor plastic and polystyrene-free starting from January 1 next year.

“The remaining operators have expressed their fear that the new packaging would increase their operational costs.

“But I am sure that once more people start to use and get used to the environmentally-friendly containers, the price will become cheaper,” he said.

He said most food operators absorb the cost of takeaway con­tainers and only a small number impose such charges on customers, which varies from 30 sen to 50 sen.

Yow said the federation had advised food and beverage operators, especially in Johor, to make the switch soon as it benefits the consumers and gives them peace of mind when taking away their food in environmentally-friendly packaging.

He said he hopes that they would gradually start making the switch so that there would not be a rush to buy the new containers when the time draws near for the ruling to be implemented.

“I also hope the state government will be strict and firm in the implementation of the no-polystyrene ruling come next year.

“This is to prevent the traders from suffering losses once they stock up on the new takeaway containers and also inconsistency,” he added.


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