More return trays at hawker centres; table littering rules start on Jan 1 at foodcourts, coffee shops, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

More return trays at hawker centres; table littering rules start on Jan 1 at foodcourts, coffee shops

More than four in five diners at hawker centres in Singapore are now returning their used crockery on trays, a marked improvement from before strict table littering rules took effect in September this year.

Revealing the results ahead of the enforcement of similar rules this Saturday (Jan 1) at foodcourts and coffee shops, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor said: "Our observations are that diners are now generally more aware about their responsibility to clean up after themselves, and are willing to do so."

Prior to imposing $300 composition fines on second-time offenders and court fines of up to $2,000 on repeat offenders, only one in three diners at hawker centres returned their trays.

Dr Khor was speaking to reporters on Thursday after visits to the Kopitiam foodcourt in Hillion Mall and the Choh Dee Place coffee shop at Block 163A Gangsa Road, where she spoke to diners and stallholders about the importance of returning used crockery on trays.

Tray return will be compulsory from this Saturday at foodcourts and coffee shops, following a two-month advisory period.

Only one person has been issued a written warning to date for flouting tray-return rules at the 114 NEA-run hawker centres throughout Singapore.

About 400 coffee shops and foodcourts have taken up the NEA's Clean Tables Support Scheme to install more tray-return facilities, Dr Khor said on Thursday.

Under the scheme, coffee shops and hawker centres can be supported for up to 50 per cent of the costs they incur, capped at $2,500 per premises.

There are about 1,120 coffee shops and 220 foodcourts in Singapore.

Some 99.6 per cent of them have tray-return facilities in place, compared with just 20 per cent in July, Dr Khor added.

Safe distancing ambassadors and the Singapore Food Agency's (SFA) enforcement officers will also be deployed at foodcourts and coffee shops to advise diners to clear their trays, crockery and litter from tables.

Table litter includes used tissues, wet wipes, straws, canned drinks, plastic bottles and food remnants.

Dr Amy Khor visits the Kopitiam in Hillon Mall on Dec 30, 2021.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

On cleanliness during the two-month advisory period, Dr Khor said: "Patrons, stallholders and coffee shop operators find that the environment is much cleaner, and there is less pest nuisance.

"Operators were initially concerned that patrons may find it troublesome and they would lose business, but they realised this is helpful, as they are able to turn-over clean tables faster and cleaners can focus on sanitising tables."

But Dr Khor assured the public that enforcement will not be taken against those clearly unable to return their trays, such as the frail elderly, people with disabilities and young children. But their family members or dining companions should help them to do so, she said.