1 written warning, no fines given for failure to clear hawker centre trays since Sep. 1, 2021: Amy Khor

Diners at hawker centres have been "generally cooperative", she said.

Jane Zhang | November 03, 2021, 04:44 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/mothershipsg

Since Sep. 1, 2021, diners at hawker centres risk enforcement action — including a written warning or a fine — for failing to clear their trays and crockery.

In Parliament on Wednesday (Nov. 3), Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor said that one written warning has been issued to a diner who refused to clear dirty crockery, and no fines have been given out.

One written warning, no fines given out

Responding to a parliamentary question by Member of Parliament Joan Pereira about the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment's (MSE) Clean Tables Campaign, Khor said that so far, diners at hawker centres have been "generally cooperative".

Diners who do not clear their dirty trays, crockery, and litter after eating are advised by enforcement officers to do so.

Those who refuse to heed officers' advice then have their particulars taken down and are issued written warnings, if it is their first offence.

Second or subsequent offenders are issued fines or sent to court.

Khor said that many diners have taken the initiative to return their trays and dirty crockery after eating, or have done so when advised.

The common reason given by diners for not doing so is that they have forgotten.

To date, Khor stated, one written warning has been issued to a diner who refused to follow enforcement officers' advice to return the dirty crockery.

In a Facebook post on Sep. 8, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that a man had refused to return his glass with leftover drink despite advice from enforcement officers.

No fines have been issued to date, Khor added.

Expanding enforcement actions to coffeeshops and food courts

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will also be commencing enforcement actions against table littering at coffeeshops and food courts.

There will be a two-month advisory period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

Khor added that the ministry will continue its "extensive outreach efforts" to make sure that the general public and key stakeholders are aware of the requirement to return their dirty trays and crockery after dining at public dining spaces.

"This includes multilingual outreach materials on mass media and social media platforms, onsite reminders at hawker centres, coffee shops, and food courts, as well as collaborations with grassroots organisations, schools, and youth groups," she said.

"We hope more diners will exercise their social responsibility, return their dirty trays and crockery, and for this to become a social norm in Singapore."

Considering using technology

In a supplementary question, Pereira asked if the government might consider supporting the adoption of technology in coffeeshops and food courts — such as tray return robots or automated food waste digesters — in order to further improve the cleanliness and environment of those dining areas.

This is in view of the ongoing manpower crunch, and the rollout of the campaign to coffeeshops and food courts, she said.

In response, Khor acknowledged that the cleaning services and waste management sectors are indeed facing manpower crunches.

"In fact, with the ageing population and declining workforce going forward, this manpower crunch is likely to become even more acute," she said, adding that the average age of cleaners in Singapore today is 60 years old.

Thus, the self-service concept of the Clean Tables Campaign is "the more sustainable way" of maintaining the cleanliness and hygiene of public dining spaces going forward, she stated.

"And in fact, this revised table cleaning workflow will actually give assurance to our ageing cleaners that their services continue to be needed and appreciated. And also give them better clarity on where to focus on, better working environment... safer and better working environment.

And perhaps, you know, that will also help in terms of meeting manpower constraints with better retention, or people who are thinking of joining the sector might might actually do so."

Support for cleaning companies, premise owners and tenants

Khor stated that the government encourages the sector, through the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map, to consider improving productivity, such as by redesigning the workflow and adopting technology.

Eligible NEA-licensed cleaning companies, premise owners, and tenants are able to apply for the Environmental Services Productivity Solutions Grant (ESPSG) to receive funding support to purchase cleaning and waste management equipment, such as autonomous cleaning robots and food waste digesters.

In August, the first tranche of the ESPSG concluded, with "overwhelming demand", Khor said. 1,700 applications have been approved, and a S$40.75 million grant has been committed.

The government is assessing the rest of the applications — about 1,200 — to meet the remainder fund, and NEA is exploring expanding the scheme.

Related stories:

Follow and listen to our podcast here

Top photo by Jane Zhang.