Best of our wild blogs: 25-26 Nov 16

#throughthegrapevine: A Pioneer’s Journey

2017 Jumping Spiders Calendar
Macro Photography in Singapore

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An appetite for giving: Helping companies to donate leftover food

Lim Jia Qi Channel NewsAsia 25 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: Pork ribs, roast beef, pastas and cold cuts - all this leftover food from restaurant LeVeL33's buffet used to be tossed out with the garbage.

But in July this year, the upmarket establishment in Marina Bay decided to put the uneaten food to a better use, giving it away to the Hiding Place, a drug rehabilitation halfway house in Choa Chu Kang.

“(We) believe in zero wastage (and) sustainability, with the highest priority in giving back to those who are disadvantaged,” said a spokesperson from LeVeL33.

Every Saturday, the excess from the restaurant’s brunch buffet is packed into small containers and picked up by Hiding Place staff. The food is usually enough for about 20 people.

While some people may reject such food as leftovers, the beneficiaries at The Hiding Place see it as a welcome treat.

“Every week, we get this food and we are really blessed because it is very fresh. Frankly speaking, this is part of a luxury for us ... because all this is very good food,” said Satiyan Sankaran, 62, as he scraped up the last bit of food that was left on his plate.

“Even when we are in Singapore, in a rich country, there are still people who don’t have such luxuries that we are having and I want to thank the various establishments for giving us this food,” Mr Sankaran added.

But while LeVeL33 is putting excess food to better use, statistics suggest that its strategy is not being widely adopted. Over the past decade, the amount of food waste generated in Singapore has increased by about 45 per cent to 790,000 tonnes in 2015. And only 13 per cent of it was recycled and the remaining 87 per cent was disposed of.


Nevertheless, a trend seems to be developing - more companies are donating excess perishable food to those in need via charities and non-profit organisations.

In 2014, Marina Bay Sands (MBS) started giving dry food such as bread to Food from the Heart, which distributes food to those in need. And since May, the hotel started giving away unserved food from its banquets to the less fortunate via the Food Bank Singapore.

“The largest segment of our waste stream is food waste. If you can develop solutions around that, it makes really good sense for your business,” said Kevin Teng, MBS’ executive director of sustainability. So far, the hotel has donated about 500kg to 800kg of banquet items.

Before it started to make the donations, MBS wanted to ensure it could do so without the food spoiling. It now blast chills items before they are passed on for distribution. “We spent nearly a year doing it in-house and taking microbial tests for the food. I think liability is absolutely a concern, but we can take measures and methodical steps to minimise it as best as possible,” Mr Teng added.

Besides MBS, the Food Bank Singapore has also seen more partners contributing to its Food Rescue Project, which collects cooked food from restaurants and eateries and distributes it to the needy. Started last year, the programme currently has about 12 partners such as online supermarket RedMart and Hilton Singapore.

In recent months, BreadTalk has also jumped on the bandwagon, donating its unsold bread to Food from the Heart.

But charity organisations hope that more food establishments can be persuaded to come forth to donate.


“With the amount of food that is going around, it's definitely not enough,” said Anson Quek, executive director of Food from the Heart. The organisation, which redistributes bread and non-perishable food items, has so far collected about S$700,000 worth of food items this year, to support 25,000 beneficiaries. The group hopes to expand its network and support 50,000 beneficiaries by 2018.

“There are about 105,000 HDB households living with a gross household income of less than S$1,500. So, if you multiply (that) by four, you are talking about half a million people living under those conditions. We are just touching the surface,” said Mr Quek.

But Mr Quek noted that many companies still have the mindset that their brand would be affected if anything happens to those who are given leftover food.

“Some organisations are concerned that if their food is given out to the recipients and if anything happens after consuming it, such as food poisoning ... it will tarnish their brand image,” said Mr Quek.

Co-founder of the Food Bank Singapore Nichol Ng agreed, saying that many companies are worried about their brand.

"It’s not just about after people eating and then getting diarrhoea. We have met businesses - some local brands, large brands - (and) the owners actually said ‘Can you ensure that your drivers do not let people know that I’m donating food to you?’ Because they equate food donation to excess food to lousy business,” said Ms Ng.

To assuage concerns and streamline the process of food donation, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) launched a guide in October that outlines steps for companies who wish to donate their unsold and excess food to charity organisations.


Mr Quek pointed out that the guide is a first step towards reducing food waste at the national level but having a so-called Good Samaritan law in Singapore would encourage more companies to give away their excess food.

Currently, the United States and Panama are among the countries that have such laws, which protect donors from civil and criminal liability arising out of food donations.

“It gives the donors a sense of assurance. And if I donate food, it's out of goodwill and I will not be penalised in the event if there is any incident. It's one way to encourage food donors to come forward,” said Mr Quek.

Crowne Plaza’s senior distribution and relationship marketing manager Aileen Yong said the hotel would consider donating its excess cooked food if there was a similar law in Singapore. “If there is a law like that, we may consider because we also want charities to benefit from the extra food that we have,” she said.

“Because of the food safety regulations, we try not to distribute food outside of the hotel. We are concerned that if they bring the food out of the hotel, if they leave it under the sun for too long, if the food is spoilt and if they are not aware, it might cause a health risk,” she added.

Having a Good Samaritan law would alleviate some of those concerns, but Ms Ng said having some tax incentives would be more effective to get companies to donate food.

“What will really push people is if there is a tax rebate for donations which include food. So now for all donations in dollars, there is a 250 per cent tax rebate. So, if we have that, I think food donations will increase drastically,” she said. “Because on the companies’ balance sheets, their profit and loss, instead of treating the food as a complete write-off, they can look at it as a donation.”

Mr Quek urged companies who are hesitant to donate their excess food to participate in their food distribution activities.

“For companies who are not sure about food donation, participate in our food distribution. Go down to the ground to see who are the beneficiaries so they know where the food goes to. It will give them peace of mind.”

For Mr Sankaran, he is grateful to LeVeL33 and other companies for their generosity. "This is all good food ... we are really blessed and thankful," he said.

- CNA/jq

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Monsoon season to start in late November

Channel NewsAsia 24 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: The monsoon season is expected to start in late November, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) and PUB in a joint statement on Thursday (Nov 24).

The northeast monsoon season is common in the southern ASEAN region and comprises of a wet and dry phase. The wet phase – from December to January – is characterised by short-duration moderate to heavy thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon, and extending into the evening on some days.

There is an average of 18 days of rain in December and 13 in January, the agencies said.

There may also be two to four episodes of monsoon surges – periods of prolonged, widespread, moderate to heavy rain lasting between two and five days, occasional windy conditions and cooler temperatures.

In contrast, the dry phase from February to March typically brings less rainfall and drier weather conditions.

During the northeast monsoon season, MSS said it will issue heavy rain warnings when intense rain or prolonged monsoon rain is expected, in addition to regular weather forecasts and warnings.

Members of the public can monitor the risk of flash floods at PUB’s website.


In preparation for the monsoon season, officers from PUB have distributed advisories to around 600 residents and shop owners in low-lying and hotspot areas. The advisories have tips the public can take to protect their belongings and premises against possible flash floods.

About 100 major construction worksites have also been checked to ensure that the rains around the sites are free-flowing. PUB added that it is working with agencies and town councils to ensure drains and canals across Singapore are kept functioning effectively.

The National Environment Agency has also increased the frequency of its checks and clearing of drains.

Drainage improvement projects are currently on-going at 76 locations. Drainage improvement works to the Sunset Way outlet drain are expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2017, while works at Kallang River – between Bishan Road and Braddell Road - are expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2018.

PUB added that it also has plans to start drainage upgrading at 26 locations by year-end.

- CNA/ek

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Higher energy standards for refrigerators from December 2017

Channel NewsAsia 25 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: Energy standards will be raised for refrigerators being sold in Singapore starting next December, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Friday (Nov 25).

The Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for the appliance will be raised by between 5 and 13 per cent, depending on the refrigerator category. The number of ticks indicates the relative energy efficiency of the product.

The least energy efficient refrigerator models within the 1-tick band that do not meet the enhanced MEPS will be phased out. These models represent about 15 per cent of all refrigerator models currently available in the market. Sales of the remaining 1-tick models that meet the enhanced MEPS can continue.

The move will help households save on energy costs and increase the supply of more energy efficient refrigerators in the market, the agency said, adding that refrigerators account for about 18 per cent of total household electricity consumption.

Households that use a three-tick refrigerator instead of a one-tick model can save an estimated S$75 in electricity bills each year, it noted.

NEA said that since the introduction of mandatory energy labelling in 2008 and MEPS for refrigerators in 2011, the average efficiency of refrigerators has improved by about 26 per cent, resulting in more than S$18 million in annual energy cost savings for households, or the yearly electricity consumption of around 14,000 homes.

These measures have also led to a total carbon abatement of about 0.03 MT - equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of close to 9,000 cars, it added.

- CNA/kk

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Foldable bicycles, PMDs allowed on public transport from Dec 1 as part of 6-month trial

Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 24 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: Owners of foldable bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMDs) like e-scooters and hoverboards may bring these items on board buses and trains from Dec 1 this year, as part of a six-month trial, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Thursday (Nov 24).

The devices, however, have to be within the size criteria of 120cm x 70cm x 40cm. Measuring charts will be set up in in train stations and bus interchanges islandwide. These are similar to sizing charts used in airports to measure the sizes of carry-on bags.

Currently, foldable bicycles are only allowed on buses and trains during off peak hours, and only smaller ones of up to 114cm x 64cm x 36cm are permitted.

Rules and guidelines include:

• Foldable bicycles/PMDs must be folded at all times in the MRT/LRT stations, bus interchanges/terminals and on trains and buses.
• Motorised PMDs must be switched off when brought on board trains and buses.
• Wheels of foldable bicycles/PMDs are to be wrapped up if they are dirty or wet.
• Protruding parts likely to cause injury or damage property are to be covered up or retracted (e.g. handle bars and bicycle pedals).
• Only one foldable bicycle/PMD is allowed on a bus at any one time.
• Foldable bicycles/PMDs are not allowed on the upper deck of a bus or on the staircase leading to the upper deck.
• Commuters should not ride their foldable bicycles or PMDs within the MRT/LRT stations and bus interchanges/terminals.


• Commuters should be responsible for the safe carriage of their foldable bicycles/PMDs and should hold or carry their foldable bicycles/PMDs.
• Foldable bicycles/PMDs should not block the aisles and doors or impede commuters’ movement at any time.
• When travelling by train, commuters with foldable bicycles/PMDs should use the first or last car, which is usually less crowded.
• Commuters with foldable bicycles/PMDs should use the wide fare gates at MRT/LRT stations where they are available
“They (the PMDs) should fit the stipulated dimensions so they are not too large and they wouldn't cause too much inconvenience to the other commuters,” said Tan Shin Gee, director of LTA’s Active Mobility Unit and Policy. “We've also put in place other rules to ensure the safety of commuters - such as these cyclists or PMD users, they would have to fold their devices and they will have to either carry them or wheel them along once they enter the public transport system."

With the trial, LTA said it hopes to encourage more people to take public transport, and for commuters to incorporate cycling, or PMDs in their daily commute. This comes as personal mobility devices are seen as possible solutions to the “first mile-last mile” problem facing Singapore and other dense urban cities.

Commuters Channel NewsAsia spoke to had mixed feelings about sharing train or bus space with the devices.

"I don't think it's advisable actually,” said Lynn Kang, a 60-year-old freelancer. “It will take up a lot of space. As you can see, the trains are very crowded, so with these bulky items, I don't think it's convenient."

Another commuter, student Vihanga Karunathilake, said: "As long as they keep in mind to not disturb other people and they stay in the space - it's alright.”

Ultimately LTA said the trial’s success depends on “the co-operation of everyone." For example, commuters with foldable bicycles or PMDs are advised to board the next train or bus if the first one is too crowded.

The pilot was first announced by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Jul 20 at the Walk Cycle Ride SG Symposium. The transport authority added will use the feedback gathered during the trial to further refine the rules surrounding personal mobility devices.

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Upholding rules in the sharing economy

N. CRAIG SMITH Today Online 25 Nov 16;

In July this year, a West Hollywood rape victim sued Uber Technologies over allegations that the ride-hailing company — which pitches itself as “the safest ride on the road” — had been negligent in conducting background checks on its drivers.

It was not the first time an Uber driver has been accused of rape, nor was it Uber’s first brush with the law. In July last year, the firm settled a lawsuit with a San Francisco couple after one of its drivers struck and killed their six-year-old daughter. In June this year, a French court ordered the company to pay €800,000 (S$1.2 million) for running an illegal car-hire service, after taxi drivers rioted in the streets in protest that non-traditional car services were violating transport regulations and threatening their livelihoods.

In fact, since the launch of its ride-hailing app in 2011, Uber has spent millions of dollars fighting a barrage of lawsuits from governments, drivers, passengers and competitors across the globe. It has been challenged on issues of safety, regulatory breaches, labour rights and business taxes, from the way the company vets its drivers, to how it advertises.

In its defence, Uber has insisted that it is not a transportation company, but merely an online platform connecting customers with independent contractors, therefore responsibility for many of these issues lies with its drivers.

growth of a new economy

As part of the new “sharing economy”, Uber and similar tech-based firms such as Airbnb, TaskRabbit and BlaBlaCar leverage the ease of data-sharing available in the Internet age and a sense of trust in online communities. They provide ways for people to share their underutilised possessions, holding out a promise of increased sustainability and democratisation of the workplace; redefining the way people do business and, as the name suggests, holding promises of mutual benefits and responsible actions.

Along the way, many of these companies, like Uber, have gained a competitive advantage by sidestepping regulations, taxes, permits and sundry charges that competitors in traditional businesses face. As their revenues — and the number of complaints against them — increase, questions are mounting as to whether these firms really are just technological platforms facilitating transactions for individual businesspeople, or whether they should be seen as real-world companies with the same responsibilities as transport companies, hotels and employment agencies.

The world’s most successful start-up

It would be difficult to argue that, in business terms, Uber has been anything but a success. In the seven years since its inception, the firm has grown from an implausible Silicon Valley start-up to become one of the most highly valued, privately held companies in the world, with operations in over 500 cities and US$10 billion (S$14 billion) in equity funding.

Uber’s disruptive technology has been successful and effective in prompting taxi companies to clean up their act by bringing new efficiencies to the industry.

As the company expands into each new city, potential customers and driving partners seek it out, giving the firm the legitimacy — and some say, the arrogance — to start operations with little heed to regulations governing the transport sector.

But Uber’s aggressive business tactics have come under fire. There are allegations, for example, that the company encouraged its drivers to make bogus calls ordering thousands of rides to jam up the services of an online competitor; elsewhere, rivals have accused the firm of intentionally cutting fares low enough to drive taxi services and other car companies out of business.

Airbnb, a peer-to-peer homestay network, also has been accused of ignoring laws and responsibilities, and berated for facilitating hotel-like operations in residential neighbourhoods. A 2014 report by the State of New York’s Attorney General noted that more than 70 per cent of the company’s New York City rental listings were unlawful.

Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a Bill imposing large fines on homeowners who advertise through Airbnb. Aside from the concerns of traditional hoteliers and a loss in tax revenues, other reasons advanced for restricting Airbnb are the problems of noise and other forms of disruption brought by short-term tenants in residential buildings. The firm has also been condemned for including properties located in illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine among its rental listings.

Mutual benefits and responsibilities in a sharing economy

Critics say that, as well as driving traditional competitors out of business, the very nature of the new sharing economy — whereby larger companies with bigger networks become more attractive to customers — is creating monopolies in which one or two platforms rule entire markets.

The sheer size of these companies, the profits being made and the effort that goes into promoting their brands make it difficult for the likes of Uber and Airbnb to continue passing themselves off as passive intermediaries. It has been argued that these companies and their venture-capitalist backers are taking advantage of the positive symbolic meaning of ”sharing”, while siphoning off too much value (albeit on paper as of yet).

As large for-profit players, it would be fair to say these industry giants are more than just platforms and should be held to greater account for the services operating under their names. However, whether they bear the same responsibility as that of, for example, a taxi service and its responsibility to its drivers, is open to question.

Control and flexibility

The sharing economy is not completely unchecked, being controlled, to a certain extent, via decentralised monitoring — whereby users rate their Uber driver or Airbnb host. However, it is becoming evident that this is not enough, and there remains a role for regulatory bodies to ensure that the economic successes of organisations within the so-called sharing economy are not based on their ability to avoid taxes, standards and laws.

Regulators must evolve along with the new “sharing” business model and look at introducing different terms such as “on-demand-economy”, “access-economy” or “peer-to-peer economy” as well as the appropriate regulatory constraints. They should preserve the value created through innovation — surely few would wish to go back to pre-Uber taxi services — yet also protect, with suitably nuanced regulations, those smaller organisations that are more akin to the idea connoted by the term “sharing economy”. This approach would give regulators the flexibility to differentiate between “Uberised” firms and other smaller organisations and non-profit activities that operate under a similar umbrella.


N. Craig Smith is the INSEAD Chair in Ethics and Social Responsibility at INSEAD and a specialist professor at the INSEAD Corporate Governance Initiative. This piece first appeared in INSEAD Knowledge.

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Bankers can do their part for the earth: Forum

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 25 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — In an out-of-the-box move towards cutting the use of energy and raw materials last year, consumer, health and lighting products company Philips began offering “lighting as a service” to Schiphol airport in the Netherlands.

The airport would pay for the light it used, and Philips would remain the owner of the fixtures and installations, which were designed to last longer and with components that can be individually replaced.

The Philips case reflects a move towards a circular economy, and bankers and financiers have a role to play in such efforts, said banker Herry Cho at the Responsible Business Forum yesterday.

In a circular economy, resources are redesigned, recycled and reused as they are returned to the industrial supply chain.

New business models entail changes in cash-flow models and risk allocations, said Ms Cho, ING’s director of capital structuring and advisory in Asia, and its Asia sustainability lead.

“For example, if you just sell lighting, the ownership of this product transfers from producer, from inventory, to the buyer,” she said during a discussion on responsible consumption and production.

“But if the producer continues to own and provide it as a service, suddenly you have a growing balance sheet on this side, you have increasing need for working capital and you have contracts that have to be relied upon, from the financier’s viewpoint. These are all real issues, and solutions need to be found in order to facilitate funding of circular economy,” Ms Cho added.

For small farmers who require financing, financiers can also help by linking them with large companies. The farmers may then secure contracts to supply to the large companies, and financing can be offered to the farmers at reasonable rates.

Food wastage and the culture of consumption were other topics raised at the discussion, facilitated by United National Environment Programme’s, programme management officer (agriculture, food systems) James Lomax.

Other panellists included representatives from Marina Bay Sands (MBS), food services giant Sodexo, and the Cambodian government.

The amount of food the world needs to produce in the next 40 years is equivalent to what it has produced in the previous 8,000 years, said Mr Roshith Rajan, Sodexo’s Asia-Pacific corporate responsibility lead.

Calling food waste a growing inefficiency, he said it is generally a problem at the post-harvest level for developing countries, and at the consumer level for developed countries.

MBS sustainability head Kevin Teng said the integrated resort manages food waste through five anaerobic digesters, and is also piloting a composter. Consumers and banquet attendees can help venues to do better planning and manage waste by RSVP-ing to event organisers, he said.

Asked about reconciling the need for economic growth with a circular economy, the panellists said there has to be sufficient demand from the public for change to take place.

As an example of how things are changing, Ms Cho cited how Shanghai’s municipal government took out gross domestic product growth as a key performance indicator from last year.

Instead of focusing on just growth numbers, Shanghai officials have been told to focus on “quality” and “efficiency” and the city’s contribution to the country, according to media reports.

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Govt unveils support measures for marine and offshore engineering firms

The Government will take on 70 per cent of the risk-share for both financing schemes
ANGELA TENG Today Online 25 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE – As the latest data showed output from the marine and offshore engineering industry almost halved last month, the Government on Friday (Nov 25) announced targeted measures to help companies in the sector which it said is going through a “unique and prolonged slowdown”.

Enhancements have been made to trade development agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore’s Internationalisation Finance Scheme (IFS) while enterprise agency Spring Singapore’s bridging loan has been re-introduced for companies in the sector. The schemes aim to facilitate marine and offshore engineering companies’ access to working capital and other financing.

The bridging loan will help Singapore-based marine and offshore engineering companies finance their operations and bridge short-term cash flow gaps. Eligible companies will be able to borrow up to S$5 million each, with a loan tenure of up to six years. The maximum loan quantum for each borrower group is S$15 million.

Meanwhile, the maximum loan quantum under the IFS, which provides project and asset financing support for companies, will be raised to S$70 million per borrower group from the current S$30 million per borrower group for marine and offshore engineering companies.

“These measures will help to address the intensifying financing challenges faced by the marine and offshore engineering industry in recent months, as it experiences a unique and prolonged slowdown,” IE, Spring and the Ministry for Trade and Industry said in their joint statement.

The one-off measures are targeted at stabilising the marine and offshore engineering sector, as it copes with the prolonged weakness in oil and gas prices amid the slowdown and uncertainty in the global economic environment, according to the statement. The Government will take on 70 per cent of the risk-share for both the bridging loan and IFS.

At the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises’ 30th anniversary dinner on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam warned that the marine and offshore engineering sector is going through a deep and long downturn.

“It will have to restructure, and there will be inevitable downsizing. But this additional Government support is aimed at helping the many viable companies in the marine and offshore engineering industry with core capabilities that should be preserved for the long term,” he said.

Commenting on the support measures, Mr Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation said: “It is uncommon for the Government to target financial support for a specific sector. That it is doing so now for the marine and offshore engineering sector reflects the gravity of the situation and the importance of this sector to Singapore.”

“The bridging loan scheme will help local companies in the sector deal with their immediate financing needs. Hopefully this additional facility will allow more companies, particularly the smaller ones, to meet their tight cash-flow needs in the short term.”

“The enhanced IFS signals Government support for the industry to pursue growth opportunities internationally.

“This is a needed development as our companies must look for growth in new markets and new sectors. The industry should view these latest Government measures as providing some welcome relief, but they are not the silver bullets that will solve the industry’s woes,” he added.

Plagued by the low oil price environment, which curtailed rig-building activities and demand for oilfield and gasfield equipment, the marine and offshore engineering sector suffered a 46.9 per cent slump in output in October from the same month a year earlier, data from the Economic Development Board (EDB) showed on Friday.

This was an acceleration of the 31.7 per cent and 29.5 per cent declines in September and August, respectively, bringing the cumulative performance for the first 10 months of this year to a 31.5 per cent contraction, the EDB data showed.

Despite the dismal performance of the marine and offshore engineering sector, Singapore’s overall industrial production rose 1.2 per cent last month from October a year earlier, although this was sharply lower than the revised 7.7 per cent expansion in the previous month.

The increase in output was driven mostly by the electronics and biomedical manufacturing clusters, which expanded by 24.6 per cent and 11.3 per cent, respectively.

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Malaysia: Sabah ‘conservation area will be four times Penang island size’

RUBEN SARIO The Star 26 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is piecing together a conservation area that will eventually become a key biodiversity zone about four times the size of Penang island.

State Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the Kuamut Forest Reserve would be expanded by 14,000ha as part of efforts to realise this massive conservation area that was an important habitat for orang utan and other wildlife.

“It is like piecing together the parts of a jigsaw puzzle. It will eventually be assembled,” he said yesterday.

On Thursday, the Sabah state assembly passed an amendment to the Forests (Constitution of Forest Reserves and Amendment) Enactment 1984.

The amendment, tabled by Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Ellron Angin, will see Class 1 totally protected forest reserves being increased from 1.26 million hectares to 1.35 million hectares.

The area for Class VI virgin jungle reserves has also been increased from over 106,000ha to more than 107,000ha as well as wildlife forest reserves from nearly 138,000ha to over 139,000ha.

However, the amendment will also provide for the removal of over 19,400ha of land from the existing forest reserves.

The department, said Mannan, was assembling a complex of protected areas comprising Kuamut, Ulu Segama, Dermakot and Segaliud Lokan forest reserves as well as the existing Maliau Basin and Danum Valley conservation zones.

The addition of areas, he said, was aimed at protecting water catchment areas in Sabah’s interior Keningau and Tambunan districts.

“We did this at the request of the villagers who wanted to ensure water supply to areas was sustainable by protecting the forests around them,” he said.

While some of the areas to be added had been logged about 20 to 30 years ago, these had since been regenerated, such as that in the northern Kota Belud district, said Mannan.

The removal of over 19,400ha, he said, was to correct some anomalies such as village land gazetted in the past as forest reserves.

“Some of the affected land were also titled properties and we had to remove these from the forest reserves,” he added.

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Malaysia: Turtle hatchery releases 5,000th batch of hatchlings

The Star 25 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: A turtle hatchery at Pulau Mabul near the diving haven of Sipadan is celebrating a milestone with the release of the 5,000th batch of hatchlings recently.

The eggs were collected from 66 turtle nests and brought to the hatchery run by dive operator Scuba Junkie and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Wildlife Department officer Mohd Soffian Abu Bakar said the hatchery’s milestone was remarkable, given the declining numbers of sea turtles worldwide.

“Pulau Mabul is known for the abundance of turtles seen by divers and snorkellers, even though green turtles are listed as endangered and hawksbill turtles as critically endangered on the IUCN (International Union on Conservation of Nature) Redlist.

“The fact that so many hatchlings have been released from this one hatchery is a great boost for turtle conservation and illustrates how important this area is for sea turtles,” Mohd Soffian added.

He said the hatchery programme was an example of government, business and local communities working together to safeguard the Semporna sea turtle populations.

Scuba Junkie currently has three honorary wildlife wardens (HWWs) trained by the department to safeguard endangered species such as sea turtles.

On Pulau Mabul, if a nesting turtle is discovered, the HWWs are contacted to relocate the nest to the hatchery and after about two months, the hatchlings are released into the sea.

The person who notifies Scuba Junkie of the nesting turtle is given a reward of RM1,000 per nest to encourage the local community to effectively act as rangers on the island.

“It is mutually beneficial for turtle conservation and the local community who are rewarded for their efforts in aiding the conservation programme,” Mohd Soffian said.

In addition, a recent nest within the grounds of SK Mabul prompted Scuba Junkie to make a separate RM1,000 donation to the school to help support marine conservation education for the pupils.

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Indonesia: Heavy rains cause harvest failures, landslides

Ganug Nugroho Adi, Arya Dipa and Wahyoe Boediwardhana The Jakarta Post 25 Nov 16;

Aftermath: A West Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) officer examines a house hit by a landslide in Nyalindung district, West Bandung regency, West Java, on Wednesday. At least five landslides have occurred in the regency in the past week, displacing more than 100 families.(JP/Arya Dipa)

Bad weather in a number of regions over the last few days has caused problems ranging from harvest failures and unstable soil to floods and landslides.

In Central Java, tobacco farmers on the slopes of Mount Merbabu and Mount Merapi in Klaten and Boyolali regencies have suffered losses of up to hundreds of millions of rupiah because of harvest failures caused by rough weather.

Many have been forced to sell their land and livestock to cover loans as well as to fund the planting of vegetables as the tobacco season has ended.

Sunardi, one such farmer, said he had planted 7 hectares of tobacco in Cepogo, Boyolali, and had so far harvested very little of the crop, and none of what had been harvested had been sold because of its poor quality.

“It contains too much water. I don’t know what to do with it,” said Sunardi, adding that the harvest was simply being stored in a warehouse.

He said farmers in the region had counted on a big factory in East Java to buy their tobacco, but this year the factory did not buy the commodity because of the decline in quality.

Another farmer, Marsono, who experienced something similar, said that a hectare of tobacco needed some Rp 50 million to cultivate, all funded by loans.

Farmer Rasiyem of Solodiran, Manisrenggo, Klaten, said that this year’s harvest was the worst in the last five years as it could not be sold at all. “I have sold three of my cows to cover the loans to plant tobacco in a 250-square-meter field,” she said.

Separately chairman of the National Commission to Save Clove Cigarettes’ (KNPK) Klaten branch, Aryanta Sigit Suwanta, estimated that the total losses experienced by tobacco farmers in Klaten amounted to over Rp 10 billion.

“Tobacco farmers in Boyolali, Klaten and Temanggung, I think, are experiencing the same. This year’s harvest is really a disaster for tobacco farmers,” he said.

In West Bandung regency, West Java, heavy rains have left the soil in a number of regions unstable.

Head of the western region soil movement division of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) Agus Budianto said most of the unstable soil occurred on hillsides. “All because of the heavy rainfall,” Agus said.

He said the PVMBG had mapped the soil movement potential across Indonesia, and the reports had been distributed to all regencies and cities throughout the country.

He said the regions categorized as prone to soil movement should not dig into hillsides to develop roads or convert forests into plantation areas.

“The soil will easily become loose and highly moldy, such that when there is extreme rain the soil will become unstable,” he said.

In East Java the main road connecting Trenggalek and Ponorogo regencies was reopened on Thursday morning after being closed for three days as a result of landslides following several days of heavy downpours over the region.

Head of the vigilance division of East Java’s Political and National Unity Agency, Eddy Supriyanto said that two units of heavy equipment had been deployed to clear the debris from the road.

The road surface at Kilometer 16, in Tugu district, Trenggalek regency, was covered in debris from the landslide, causing traffic congestion in both directions for up to five kilometers.

“Rain was still pouring during the clear-up and workers had to be extra careful in removing the debris from the road,” Eddy said.

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Indonesia: Police foils attempt to smuggle 1,300 birds in Batam

Antara 23 Nov 16;

Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) - The Water Police of Riau Islands on Tuesday foiled an attempt to smuggle around 1,300 birds of magpie family from Malaysia to Nongsa, Batam District, Riau Islands Province.

The spokesperson of Riau Islands Police Office, Adjunct Senior Commissioner S. Erlangga, gave this information here on Wednesday.

The birds were smuggled from Malaysia to Nongsa, Batam using a speedboat, and later the suspect transported these on a minibus.

"However, while the officers raided and secured the evidence, the suspect managed to escape," Erlangga noted.

The police confiscated the 40 PK speedboat and around 1,300 magpies caged in cardboard boxes.

Around 100 birds were found dead while the rest have been deposited with the Animal Quarantine Office of Batam Center.

The authority is investigating the case to track down the suspect and others involved.

Magpie commands a high value in the animal market in Batam.(*)

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Indonesia: Sumatran tigers need more sanctuaries - Government

Apriadi Gunawan and Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 25 Nov 16;

The number of existing animal sanctuaries in Indonesia is insufficient to meet the needs of the many endangered wildlife species in the archipelago, especially those on the verge of extinction, an official has warned.

There are currently 11 animal sanctuaries in Indonesia but the country needs at least 50 such facilities, according to Environment and Forestry Ministry secretary general Bambang Hendroyono.

“We aim to build new animal sanctuaries in the next three years,” he said during the inauguration of a Sumatran tiger sanctuary in Batu Nanggar village, North Padang Lawas regency, North Sumatra, on Wednesday.

Among the most endangered animals are Sumatran tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinoceri, he said.

The population of Sumatran tigers, which are on the brink of extinction, has continued to decline over the years, as a result of rampant poaching and deforestation that has destroyed much of their natural habitat, he added.

Bambang said the remaining Sumatran tiger population in its natural habitat in Sumatra amounted to between 400 and 600, Around 100 tigers are in conservation facilities such as zoos and safari parks.

Forest conversion has also led to prolonged human-tiger conflicts.

North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) Technical Affairs head Garendel Siboro said the new sanctuary spanned 40 hectares, covering areas for adaptation and habitation.

Garendel said the tiger refuge would mainly function as a rehabilitation center for injured tigers.

“Wounded tigers are taken to the sanctuary to undergo rehabilitation until the animals are fully recovered and ready to be released back into the wild,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He said the Sumatran tiger sanctuary was currently rehabilitating a tiger that had a leg amputated as a result of a severe infection after being caught in a trap. The condition of the 4.5-year-old female tiger has reportedly improved.

In Jambi, the number of wild tigers has also decreased because of poaching. According to Miskun, an official with the Kerinci Seblat National Park, there are only around 165 tigers left in the park. “We continue to find traps in the area. In many cases, tigers are also poisoned or shot,” he said.

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Indonesia now in forefront of legal timber governance

Siti Nurbaya Jakarta Post 25 Nov 16;

Who would have known that Indonesia, once infamously known for its rampant illegal logging, would today be in the forefront of forest law enforcement and trade?

Last week, in the early hours of Nov. 15, as people from around the world – myself included — were convening the United Nations Convention on Climate Change at the 22nd Conference of Parties ( COP22 ) in Marrakech, Indonesia on its own home front issued the world’s very first Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (or FLEGT) licenses.

In fact, 36 licenses were issued in those first two hours while I was away. They were for timber products whose companies had queued up patiently to get the very first licenses on that historic date.

As it happened, Nov. 15 came and went without much fanfare, but for forest governance, not to mention maintaining forest sustainability for a very long future, it was a red-letter date for Indonesia.

For FLEGT licensing by Indonesia means that, for the first time ever, the European Union is exempting an entire country’s timber exports from the requirements of its EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which prohibits trade in illegally harvested timber products.

The FLEGT license guarantees that timber from Indonesia has been harvested, processed and exported in accordance with Indonesian laws.

It’s fitting for me to reiterate here that FLEGT licenses serve border control requirements and are not intended as a product label, but as FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the EUTR requirements, EU-based importers will not need to do further due diligence before placing them on the market.

Here lies the triumph. Indonesia has achieved great progress in bringing its forest sector under control.

By addressing legality, not only have we met the very high and stringent certification standards of the EU — an important market that represents 28 countries — we have also managed to build a foundation for sustainable forest management and made it our contributing action to address climate change.

Long before the EU got into the picture, Indonesia had decided that it would halt illegal logging once and for all, for the terrible environmental degradation that had resulted, the wanton deforestation and, more to the point, the unrecorded state revenues amounting to billions, if not trillions of rupiah that we had lost.

In 2001, Indonesia hosted a regional conference that helped put illegal logging on the map as an issue of global concern. The conference ended with the Bali Declaration on Forest Law and Governance.

By 2003, Indonesia had begun a long — and oft-times painful — process of dialogue and compromise based on a multistakeholder platform to improve transparency, public participation and all aspects of good forest governance.

In the ensuing years, Indonesia developed a system for assuring that all our timber products were harvested or imported, traded, processed and exported in compliance with national laws pertaining to the environment, the economy and all other social issues, as identified by the stakeholders.

The resulting timber legality assurance system, or SVLK (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu), is subject to continual independent monitoring by civil society and periodic evaluation by independent monitors. I’m not saying that the path was easy.

When can a multistakeholder platform ever be? However, the results are well worth it.

Indonesia has guaranteed that this improvement mechanism is continuous, based on input from all those stakeholders, data collection from the field, forest monitoring by independent NGOs, law enforcement and monitoring of the market for FLEGT-licensed timber products.

On April 21 in Brussels, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker signed a joint statement for Indonesia’s issuance of the FLEGT License in this same year. We are now seeing that agreement come to fruition after 15 years of hard work.

This is the direct result of increasing transparency, better accountability and stakeholder participation in decisions about Indonesia’s forests. Today I am proud to say all of Indonesia’s timber products, exports and otherwise, are from independently audited factories and forests.

To round off this piece, allow me to give you some statistics: To date, about 24 million hectares of natural and plantation forest are SVLK-certified, together with 2,843 forest-based enterprises and industries.

Since January 2016, Indonesia exported SVLK-licensed timber products to about 200 countries, including the 28 EU countries, with a total worth of about US$8.2 billion. I’m overjoyed to say that 100 percent of the timber harvested in natural forest concessions and 100 percent of the timber from plantation forest concessions is SVLK-certified.

From Nov. 15 until 10 a.m. on Nov. 23, Indonesia had issued 845 FLEGT licenses for exporters with products destined for 24 countries in the EU, with a total value of $24.96 million. These products included wood panels with a total value of $11.92 million and furniture products worth $7.25 million.

It’s important to note that this is by no means the work of one ministry. The whole deal was a joint effort of many ministries working together, including the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Trade Ministry, the Industry Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the ministry for cooperatives and small and medium enterprises and my own ministry.

By the end of this year, the first shipments of FLEGT-licensed timber from Indonesia will enter EU ports. The EU countries have completed all their internal procedures to recognize FLEGT licensing from Indonesia.

The competent authorities and timber importers in the member countries are now prepared to receive these shipments.

Very soon, Indonesian timber products will be firmly placed in the EU market, a market that demands zero risk of illegal logging.

Indonesia’s FLEGT-licensed products are 100 percent guaranteed to have zero risk of having been illegally logged.

The writer is minister of environment and forestry.

Indonesia reaches historic milestone in combating illegal logging
Moazzam Malik Jakarta Post 25 Nov 16;

In the early 2000s illegally logged timber was estimated to account for 80 percent of the total national harvest in Indonesia. This illegal trade caused widespread deforestation, impacted the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, robbed the government of billions in revenues, and destroyed vital habitat for wildlife.

Following campaigns highlighting the environmental and social impacts from illegal logging, many buyers from Europe stopped purchasing Indonesian timber. It has taken 15 years to turn this around.

Just recently, Indonesia officially celebrated a historic achievement: Indonesia has become the first country in the world to qualify under the European Union’s timber licensing scheme known as ‘FLEGT’.

Indonesia is now able to export verified legal timber products to the EU without hindrance. Indonesia’s timber industry — large producers of paper and construction timber as well as small producers of bespoke furniture — can now access lucrative European markets much more easily.

Previously European importers had to prove that wood products from Indonesia had not been illegally logged; a costly and time consuming process.

With the roll-out of the licensing scheme, all wood products sourced directly from Indonesia are now presumed legal under the EU Timber Regulation.

For European importers of timber products, Indonesia has just become cheaper, easier and less risky than any other supplier in the world. And for European consumers, Indonesian timber products have just become more attractive as they are certified as legally sourced.

The first shipment of FLEGT licensed timber left on Nov. 15 bound for ports in the UK, Belgium, and Germany. This is a major step forward in the fight against illegal logging and deforestation.

It will help ensure sustainability for Indonesia’s precious forests and for the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on them. By tackling illegal logging head-on, the introduction of FLEGT is also good for the global environment as it will help Indonesia tackle its carbon emissions.

It also represents a major success for the Indonesian economy. With growing volumes of trade between the EU and Indonesia, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry estimates that furniture exports could grow by 200 percent by 2019 and create thousands of jobs and livelihoods in rural and urban areas.

Indonesia’s success is based on the creation of its own national licensing scheme — the Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu (SVLK). SVLK was developed over many years with UK support through a series of consultations involving government, the private sector, and civil society.

Today more than 13 million hectares of natural forest are certified legal under SVLK — an area the size of Java. The export value of the forest sector has already risen to almost £10 billion in 2015, creating thousands of jobs and supporting growth amongst small and medium enterprises.

And the number of reported cases of illegal logging has reduced significantly, by 20-fold over the last 10 years according to government figures.

On a visit to Central Java earlier in the year, I saw for myself how SVLK is certifying ‘legal wood’ throughout the supply chain, from the forest to the factory gate. Even more impressively, the scheme is flexible enough to accommodate micro-businesses as well as medium and larger companies.

I met young entrepreneurs, aspiring business men and women, as well as experienced factory owners, all dreaming of becoming exporters or taking growing shares of the global market.

They told me that they had signed up to SVLK individually or in collectives because it was the key to opening the door to exports. And they knew that trade is key to creating profit, employment and better prospects in their communities.

The UK has been a proud supporter of Indonesia’s effort to tackle illegal logging and place its forest sector on a more sustainable footing.

Trust in SVLK and FLEGT could easily be eroded should illegal shipments go undetected.

Working closely with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry through the Multi-stakeholder Forestry Program, the UK helped facilitate the design, development, and roll-out of SVLK, and its recognition under the EU FLEGT certification scheme.

Indonesia’s success in tackling illegal logging has brought important benefits for the UK in return, as FLEGT certification has made it easier for businesses to import from Indonesia.

The UK is the largest importer of Indonesian wood products in Europe, receiving roughly a quarter of the US$1 billion exported to the European Union annually. We are confident that the UK will continue to be a major market for SVLK licensed wood products from Indonesia following our eventual exit from the EU.

But the work does not end here. Trust in SVLK and FLEGT could easily be eroded should illegal shipments go undetected.

All parties involved in this success need to remain vigilant and ensure the scheme continues to cement progress towards better forestry practice.

Although illegal logging may no longer be a major driver of deforestation thanks to SVLK, land conversion and land grabs associated with the booming palm oil sector are a growing cause of concern.

As was the case 15 years ago with illegal logging, NGOs are campaigning for better environmental practices in the palm oil business.

Indonesia is now the world’s biggest palm-oil producer. It is an economically critical sector accounting for $18.6 billion in exports in 2015, or about 2.1 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product.

As was the case 15 years ago, the question is can Indonesia balance environmental concerns and secure access to international markets?

In short, can Indonesia learn and apply the lessons from the SVLK experience to the palm oil business through the reform of its International Standard for Palm Oil (ISPO). Can Indonesia create a palm oil standard that is flexible enough to accommodate small holders as well as large producers and be credible internationally? If successful, Indonesia could use international trade to drive reforms in forest and land governance necessary for sustainable economic growth, and in the process boost its economy.

The UK is committed to continuing to work in partnership with Indonesia to address these challenges. We have been an advocate for pragmatic solutions to the world’s environmental issues for decades.

Following the successful international collaboration on SVLK and FLEGT, we stand ready to support Indonesia’s leadership on supporting the emergence of a sustainable palm oil industry.

The future of Indonesia’s forests and the livelihoods of millions of people depend on it.

The writer is the British Ambassador to Indonesia, ASEAN and Timor Leste.

RI’s timber to get an edge in Europe
Dylan Amirio The Jakarta Post 25 Nov 16;

Certified: Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar (left) and Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution (second left), hand over Forest Law Enforcement Governance Trade (FLEGT) licenses in Jakarta on Thursday to timber manufacturer Corinthian Industries Indonesia general manager Aminudin Soetara (from left to right), Pindo Deli Pulp & Paper director Suhendra Wiriadinata and woodworking company Aneka Rimba Indonesia Atim Sugianto, the companies being among the first 10 Indonesian timber exporters to receive the certification to export to the European Union. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

As Indonesia has become the first country to receive an exemption from screening to ensure its timber is sourced in accordance with European Union regulations, its wood exports are set to get a major boost on the continent.

Local suppliers made the first shipment last week of wood products with EU-approved Foreign Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licenses, which certify the timber as being legally sourced.

EU Ambassador to Indonesia Vincent Guerend said Thursday that the licenses helped provide clarity over how the timber was logged, clearing away the major obstacle to enter Indonesia’s key market.

Indonesia, which has the world’s third-largest tropical rain forest area, was once notorious for massive illegal logging and its wood products were heavily stigmatized.

“I think Indonesian timber products now will have a competitive advantage in the EU. Indonesia supplies 10 percent of the world’s timber market and EU imports a third of that,” Guerent said, adding that the deal was beneficial for both parties.

With the new certification, Indonesian wood products sales may increase in primary European destinations such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Exporters can enjoy reduced time normally spent for due diligence, which means lower business costs and faster delivery of products to customers.

From November 15 to 23 as many as 845 FLEGT licenses for timber products have been issued to selected exporters. Overseas shipments of these products to 24 European countries has amounted to US$24.96 million, according to official data.

Valued at $11.92 million, wooden panels make up the majority of the exports, followed by furniture with US$7.25 million, according to Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution.

Speaking at the Environment and Forestry Ministry on that day, Darmin said that Indonesian timber products would now have better access to the competitive European market, suggesting that business players should seize the opportunity.

“Indonesia’s achievement in developing a specific certification system for timber legality must act as the guide toward improving our competitiveness in the global market and also to prove Indonesia’s commitment in guaranteeing the sustainability of our natural resources,” Darmin said, referring to the national timber legality assurance system known as SVLK, which preceded the FLEGT certification.

The value of Indonesian timber exports has risen to US$10.6 billion in 2015 after the SVLK standards were implemented in 2013.

At present, the forestry sector contributes 1 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Now that trade barriers for Indonesian timber exports have been lifted in Europe, new challenges arise for Indonesia’s exporters to cater to European tastes and standards.

“Innovation in the field of design, such as figuring out how to build more sustainably made furniture, will now become more important. That has to be done alongside supervising the illegal export activities that have tainted the industry for so long,” said Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) economist Latif Adam.

Earlier, Indonesian Sawmill and Woodworking Association (ISWA) chairwoman Soewarni explained that with the FLEGT license, Indonesian timber exporters would be more confident in selling their products overseas.

Vietnam and Ghana may follow Indonesia’s lead and seek to obtain FLEGT certification in the near future.

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Greenpeace urges UK microbead ban to protect ocean life

Remi Banet, AFP Yahoo News 25 Nov 16;

London (AFP) - Environmental group Greenpeace is calling for a ban in Britain on plastic "microbeads", found in many cosmetics, which they warn pollute the oceans and poison marine life.

Campaigners want a total ban on the tiny particles -- which are too small to be filtered -- in products that are commonly washed down the drains.

Although only making up a fraction of the five to 12 million tonnes of plastic discharged into the oceans each year, these small beads are "probably the most harmful", said Erik Van Sebille, oceanographer and climate scientist at Imperial College London.

"The smaller (the plastic) is, the most harmful it is," he told a news conference Thursday on the Greenpeace ship "Esperanza", moored near Tower Bridge in central London.

"Most animals won't eat an entire plastic bag, so the smaller it is, the easier it is to be ingested."

He said there was evidence that the excess of plastic was causing harm to sea creatures, including stopping oysters from reproducing.

The tiny balls, which can be as small as 0.1 millimetres, are found in numerous cosmetic products, from facial scrubs and exfoliators to shower gels and toothpaste.

A 125ml tube of exfoliating cream can contain several hundred thousand microbeads, usually made from polyethylene, explained David Santillo, a researcher for Greenpeace at Exeter University.

Too small to be picked up by water treatment filters, they enter the oceans where they are "very effective at picking up pollutants that are in sea water", said Santillo.

These pollutants are then passed on to the fish, crustaceans and microplankton that ingest them.

- 'Turn back the clock' -

The British government is due to launch a three-month review process in December on plans to ban microbeads, amid mounting pressure from Greenpeace and other environmental groups.

A petition calling for a ban has gathered more than 375,000 signatures. It urges Britain to follow the example of the United States and other countries which have taken action to limit their use.

Anticipating the ban, British supermarket chain Tesco will remove microbeads from its own brand cosmetic and household products by the end of 2016, the group's quality director Tim Smith announced on Thursday.

He said Tesco had asked suppliers to effectively "turn back the clock" to before microbeads, and use natural alternatives such as ground-down coconut shells.

Cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson has pledged to remove microbeads from its products globally by the end of 2017 while toothpaste maker Colgate told AFP it hasn't used them since 2014.

US corporation Procter & Gamble says on its website that it is "in the process of eliminating them from our toothpastes and cleansers".

Greenpeace said it welcomed the British government's plans to ban microbeads but wants the legislation to go further to avoid loopholes, warning that the situation is only worsening.

"By 2025, for every three tonnes of fish, there will be one tonne of plastic" in the oceans, said John Sauven, executive director for Greenpeace UK.

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