Reward system won't foster a tray-return culture

It is, and will be, an uphill task for the tray-return initiative to achieve the desired results ("Finished eating? Here's coffee if you clear your own tray"; last Thursday).

Despite Singaporeans being deluged with many campaigns and reminders all these years, the tray-return exercises seem to have made little headway in convincing the public to embrace this socially responsible act.

I have observed that in food outlets where tray-returning is widely practised, other patrons are likely to follow suit.

Conversely, in a place where most people fail to return their trays, one tends to follow the crowd.

Alas, there are too many invalid excuses for this sorry state of affairs, such as being worried about cleaners losing their jobs, or getting one's hands and clothes dirty.

We should not use money or other rewards to incentivise people to return trays, as such methods are transient and will not help nurture a tray-returning culture over time.

We should not use money or other rewards to incentivise people to return trays, as such methods are transient and will not help nurture a tray-returning culture over time.

A financial penalty of sorts would be more effective.

A measure such as making patrons pay a larger amount, say $3, for each tray they use (with a refund given when the trays are returned to the washing point) may produce the desired outcome.

It is sad but I agree that Singapore has become a market society in which almost everything is monetised or incentivised.

We should stop adopting such an approach, lest we become a society of individuals bereft of social responsibility.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Reward system won't foster a tray-return culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe