Diners who don't clear dirty trays & crockery at S'pore hawker centres face enforcement action from Sep. 1

There will be an advisory period from June 1, 2021 to Aug. 31, 2021.

Ashley Tan | May 14, 2021, 12:17 PM

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To underscore the importance of public health amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it will soon be mandatory for all diners at public dining places to return their trays and crockery after meals.

This was announced by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on May 14, who stated that members of the public and institutions such as the Public Hygiene Council have called for stronger levers including legislation, to raise table cleanliness standards at such areas.

In time to come, these legislation include enforcement action such as written warnings and composition fines.

Three-month advisory period

There will first be an advisory period from June 1, 2021 to Aug. 31, 2021.

Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs), SG Clean Ambassadors, Community Volunteers and NEA officers will be deployed at hawker centres to remind diners to clear their dirty trays, crockery and litter like used wet tissues, wrappers and food remnants.

Visual cues such as posters and banners will also be progressively put up at hawker centres.

More tray return infrastructure will also be installed across hawker centres.

No enforcement action will be taken during this period, but diners are reminded to return their trays and crockery upon being advised.

Enforcement from Sep. 1

Enforcement will subsequently start from Sep. 1, 2021 at all hawker centres.

Enforcement officers will continue to advise diners to properly clear their dirty tray, crockery and litter.

Enforcement will apply to diners who do not heed the officers’ advice.

First-time offenders will then be issued with a written warning.

Second-time offenders will face a composition fine of S$300, while subsequent offenders may face court fines.

NEA will monitor the ground situation and make adjustments over time to the enforcement posture accordingly.

The agency will be working with the Singapore Food Agency to progressively roll out enforcement at coffeeshops and food courts in the fourth quarter of the year.

No enforcement action against frail elderly or disabled people

NEA clarified that cleaners will still assist with removing trays, crockery and litter left behind by the previous diner.

Cleaners will "not lose their jobs" with this new development, NEA stated, as they will still be required to maintain and upkeep the general cleanliness of dining areas.

This new restriction is not a new law, NEA added, as leaving litter on dining tables is already enforceable as a littering offence under the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA).

However, NEA highlighted that it will take a pragmatic approach, such as enforcing against diners who do not heed advice by enforcement officers to clear their dirty trays, crockery and litter after dining.

Additionally, enforcement action will not be taken against the less-abled or frail elderly, and the disabled, who are unable to clear their tables.

However, the dining companions of these individuals can help to dispose of litter and return the trays and crockery.

Previous tray return rates low

Previously, a Clean Tables Campaign was launched by NEA on Feb. 6 to galvanise individuals and the community to do their part to return dirty trays and crockery and litter.

Although good results were seen at some places, NEA said that it was "not as satisfactory as we would like".

Since the launch of the Clean Tables Campaign, the average Tray/Crockery Return Rate (TCRR) rose from 33 per cent before the launch of the campaign to the current 35 per cent.

This is despite 76 per cent of respondents in a NEA survey in March 2021 indicating that they return their trays and/or dirty crockery most of the time.

With only slight improvements seen from the campaign thus far, NEA thus believes that a stepped-up advisory and enforcement approach will help raise public hygiene standards.

Top photo by Travis Loh