After spending years trying to cajole and incentivise Singaporeans into returning their trays at public food centres, the Singapore authorities have thrown in the towel, thrown out all carrots, and retrieved the big stick.
From Sep. 1, 2021, diners who do not clear dirty trays, crockery and litter from their tables can be slapped with fines of S$300, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on May 14 about enforcement plans.
The measures, NEA said, will be multifold, as they will help Singapore transition to a “more socially conscious, self-service concept” and keep environments clean and hygienic for diners, and protect against public health risks.
Here are the rules that NEA spelt out in black and white as to what constitutes violations and why they are implementing these new measures now.
1. Gravy, liquids or food matter accidentally spilled on the table by accident are not considered litter.
The onus is on diners to clear everything besides trays and crockery, as well as litter including shells and bones, used tissues and wet wipes, straws, wrappers, canned drinks and plastic bottles.
2. Clearing up after a diner before you is not your responsibility
If a diner before you left a mess behind, it is not your responsibility to clean up after that person.
Cleaners will still help to clear trays, crockery and waste from tables.
3. Litter blown onto the floor is your responsibility
If a used tissue belonging to you ends up on the ground caused by a breeze, you have to pick it up and throw it away.
Not picking it up is an offence as long as the ground is in a public space.
4. Young, old, and frail will not be penalised
The less-abled, frail elderly, and people with disabilities will not be penalised if they are unable to clear their tables.
Children under 12 will be educated by officers on the importance of leaving a clean table for the next diner.
5. Clearing up after yourself will not cost cleaners their jobs
NEA said cleaners will keep their jobs and allow them to focus on cleaning and disinfecting tables -- the most important aspect of what they are supposed to do.
A cleaner's job includes wiping and sanitising tables, and clearing and sorting dirty crockery at designated return points.
Cleaners, who are mainly seniors, will also be better protected as they be more vulnerable to diseases like Covid-19, NEA said.
Enforcement will be rolled out at hawker centres first due to high footfall and exposure to bird encroachment, NEA added, but the requirement on clearing tables applies to all hawker centres, coffee shops, and food courts.
What is going to happen?
There will be an advisory period from June to August 2021 for the public to adjust to the new rules before the fines are enacted.
Enforcement officers will remind diners to clean up after themselves during this transition period.
From Sep. 1, the officers will continue to advise diners to clear their tables but will go on to take enforcement action if diners do not heed the advice.
A first-time offender will get a written warning.
A second-time offender will be fined S$300.
This is similar to the amount for other compoundable littering offences.
Repeat offenders may face court fines.
Top photo via Google Maps