S'pore diners need to clear trays at food courts & coffee shops from Jan. 2022 or face enforcement action

Clear trays as much as possible.

Alfie Kwa | August 31, 2021, 10:52 AM

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Complementing the existing tray and crockery return racks at hawker centres, enforcement for table littering at coffee shops and food courts will begin on Jan. 1 2022, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said in a joint press release on Aug. 30.

Advisory and enforcement at food courts and coffeeshops

The enforcement, which will be similar to the approach taken in hawker centres, will commence from January 2022.

To help diners familiarise themselves and adjust, there will be a two-month advisory period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 where no enforcement will be taken.

During the advisory period, Safe Distancing Ambassadors and officers from the SFA deployed at these premises will remind operators to ensure that diners clear their dirty trays, crockery, and litter.

Visual cues such as posters and banners will progressively be installed at these premises to remind diners to clear their tables.

Also, more tray and crockery return infrastructure will be installed across coffeeshops and food courts.

What are diners expected to do?

Diners should not leave behind any litter, except in a dustbin or other receptacle provided for the deposit of refuse and rubbish.

This includes used tissues, wet wipes, drink cans, shells, and bones.

If cleaners insist on cleaning up, diners are welcome to let them do so.

However, diners should take the initiative in keeping their tables clean and returning dirty their own trays.

As enforcement will not be taken against the frail elderly, less-abled, or children who are unable to clear their tables, family members or dining companions of these groups should help to dispose of the litter and return the dirty trays and crockery.

What about zi char and steamboat eating places?

Although the littering law applies to all diners in public dining places, NEA will take a pragmatic approach in situations where the stall has dedicated service staff to serve food and to clear the crockery and utensils during and after the meal.

Dedicated staff at zi char and steamboat places can continue to help clear the tables.

Where it is unclear if the tables are served by dedicated staff, diners will be reminded to clear their dirty crockery and litter after their meals.

Cleaner will not lose their jobs

NEA also assured that cleaners will not lose their jobs just because diners clear their trays as they are still needed to maintain and upkeep the general cleanliness of dining places.

This includes regularly wiping and sanitising the tables, as well as clearing and sorting dirty crockery at the designated tray and crockery return points.

Returning one’s tray will reduce the cleaners’ need to make frequent rounds to clear tables, enabling faster turnover of tables during peak mealtimes.

Do cleaning services or NEA benefit from this?

NEA clarified that they do not get paid for cleaning services.

"Table-cleaning services are contracted at competitive market prices by either NEA, as part of an integrated cleaning contract, or contracted by the stallholders through their Hawkers’ Association or Managing Agent," said NEA.

Even as diners clear up after dining, cleaners are still needed.

Hence, NEA does not anticipate any reduction in cleaning costs to be paid by NEA or the stallholders in the immediate term.

By adopting a "self-service concept" to clear up tables after meals, diners can contribute towards alleviating the shortage of cleaners in the cleaning workforce and mitigate the upward pressure on cleaning costs over time.

Tray and crockery return trolleys at hawker centres

NEA will be progressively introducing trolleys from end-August 2021 where needed.

For example, trolleys could be situated in areas with tight aisles in between existing tray and crockery return racks to reduce walking distance.

In addition, NEA is in the process of installing a further 150 new permanent tray and crockery return racks and will also provide cooked food stallholders with some new trays.

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Top image via Facebook / Xie Yao Quan and CaptiaLand.