Provide incentives for hawkers to go green

With greater emphasis placed on going green and protecting our environment, I am disappointed that hawker stalls are not doing enough to be environmentally friendly.

For example, when I went to a soya bean drink stall at Clementi food centre, the stall owner insisted on sealing my drink - contained in a plastic cup - with a plastic film wrap by the machine.

This was despite me telling him that I was dining in.

When queried, the stall owner explained that he uses the number of plastic seals expended to account for the number of drinks sold per day as the machine comes with an electronic counter that displays the number of seals used.

With such a practice, I am convinced that even if I were to bring my own bottle, they would not be willing to fill it up.

This is unlike bubble tea chain Koi, which allows customers to use their own bottles to fill their drink.

In addition, despite the constant exhortation to go green, many stalls still use disposable cutlery to serve dine-in food.

I can understand the need to use disposables for takeaways, but it is wasteful if those are used even for dine-in meals.

A hawker's life is not easy, and some current practices help them to cut down on labour.

But this should not be done at the expense of the environment. There should be better alternatives to reduce the workload.

I suggest that the National Environment Agency (NEA) offer incentives for hawkers to go green, such as a discount in rent.

Also, a reduction in washing costs can be given if hawkers choose to use reusable cutlery, as one reason they use disposables is to save on the cost and effort to wash their crockery.

On the customer's side, NEA and social enterprise hawker centres can consider giving incentives to customers who use their own containers for takeaway food.

This is similar to the National University of Singapore's Arts Canteen, where students receive a stamp whenever they use their own containers for takeaways, and receive a discount off meals after accumulating a certain number of stamps.

It may be too much to ask to completely eradicate the use of plastics and disposables at food outlets, but the least we can do now as a society is to reduce our carbon footprint.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2018, with the headline 'Provide incentives for hawkers to go green'. Print Edition | Subscribe