Automated tray return system not working well at food centre

The Block 163 Bukit Merah Central Food Centre is one of the few hawker centres in Singapore using the $1-deposit automated tray return system.

As it is my regular lunch spot, I have observed how the system does not appear to be working well.

There are some people who choose not to take the trays because of the deposit.

Also, the hawkers do not seem to encourage the patrons to take the trays. This may be due to the hassle of having to replenish the trays when they run out.

This has created a few problems.

First, fewer people are clearing their plates and utensils from the table because they do not have a tray to do this with.

Also, having fewer return points for used plates makes people reluctant to walk the distance to return their plates.

Second, more birds are flying into the hawker centre to eat leftover food from the plates left on tables. This is unhygienic.

One way to solve this is to have big stickers on the table to remind people to clear their plates or trays. Some centres already have these stickers.

Also, there should be more plate return points for people who choose not to take the trays.

The tray return system can also be made compulsory for all food stalls. There might be an initial resistance to this, but there can be a trial period to let patrons use the trays for free and get used to the system.

I believe these will make eating in hawker centres a more enjoyable and, most importantly, hygienic experience.

Yeo Kok Siong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline 'Automated tray return system not working well at food centre'. Subscribe