While efforts have been made to make it easier for patrons to return their trays, many areas such as hawker centres are not built to encourage such acts ("Collective effort to encourage tray return" by the Public Hygiene Council; Tuesday).
Many hawker centres are built such that tables are very close together and walking space is tight.
Patrons often return their trays at tray-return counters before they start eating. After their meals, patrons are left with no trays to return their dishes on.
Tight spaces to navigate also make it a deterrent for patrons to return their trays.
Many of these hawker centres also do not have anything that stops birds from flying in.
As a result, birds feast on leftover food at the tray-return area, making it a very dirty and unpleasant place to leave dishes in.
In addition, these birds also leave droppings on tables and chairs.
To make the tray-return push work, it is necessary to allow more space, and to redesign tables and chairs at hawker centres and foodcourts.
Tables could be designed with a slot underneath that allows patrons to store their trays after offloading their food.
Similarly, chairs may be fitted with a back slot to allow trays to be inserted. Small trays and trolleys, similar to those used in Ikea's cafe, may also be considered.
Netting could be installed in hawker centres to prevent birds from flying in. It also helps to ensure that the hawker centres' hygiene standards are not compromised.
Tray-return areas should be enlarged sufficiently to allow a large number of dishes and trays. This is to cater for large crowds that patronise the centres during peak hours.
The areas should also be spacious and conveniently located so that patrons would be more inclined to return their trays and dishes after their meals.
Sinks should also be installed near the tray-return counter to allow patrons to wash their hands after returning the trays.
The tray-return endeavour would be more successful if deterrents for patrons to do so are removed.
Lim Wan Keng (Ms)