The Straits Times
Published on Dec 14, 2012

Ways to encourage and improve tray returns


AN IMPORTANT finding from observation surveys conducted by the National Environment Agency (NEA) is that diners are likelier to clear their tables when they eat from crockery placed on trays ("Tray-return initiative a success - when volunteers are around"; Monday).

Such a finding raises the question of why diners remove their crockery from the trays. I can think of two reasons: Either the tray is too big for the table (especially a round table or when there are many diners sharing a table) or the trays are not clean and reek of bad odours.

Perhaps the NEA should tackle the practice of diners discarding their trays to improve the chances of their cleaning up after their meals. Currently, unwanted trays are either returned to the collection point by diners or removed by the cleaners. Diners without trays will then find it a hassle to return their crockery to the collection points after their meals.

The NEA could provide smaller (about half the size of existing trays) and deeper trays (to reduce the chance of spillage, which would dirty the tables). These trays should have just enough space to accommodate a plate or a bowl, with some space for a condiments saucer and a drink. Most importantly, trays must be washed and dried after every use, just like cutlery, so that it does not smell.

Patrons should be encouraged not to remove their crockery from the tray when eating. Unwanted items (such as bones, tissue paper) should be placed on the tray and not left on the table so that the table remains clean after the tray is returned to the collection point.

Look, for instance, at the way leftovers are collected in airplane cabins. The cabin crew merely collects the tray with its contents and puts it into specially designed trolleys.

We do not see the stewardess needing to clean the tables with smelly rags as cleaners do in hawker centres.

Goh Choon Poh