Forum: Over a third refuse to return trays, clear used tissues at hawker centres

A cleaner at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre clears crockery and utensils and used tissue paper left behind by diners. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

We thank Ms Susan Tan Lin Neo for her feedback (Dangers of bad habits at hawker centres not taken seriously, Aug 13).

We agree with her that patrons at hawker centres must clear their own trays and used tissues. As used tissues or wet wipes can be contaminated, they pose a risk to others who touch them directly, or the surfaces they were in contact with.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) urges the public to properly dispose of their used tissues and wet wipes to keep the dining tables clean for the next user, and minimise the risk of disease transmission to cleaners and other diners.

Ms Tan is also right in stating that leaving table-clearing to cleaners is the wrong mindset to have. We still hear the occasional comment that clearing one's litter or tray would deprive cleaners of their jobs.

This is a misconception, and an excuse that a minority of diners use for not cleaning up after themselves.

Cleaners will still have other cleaning tasks to perform at the tray return points or centralised dishwashing stations.

In fact, leaving trays and soiled tissues behind makes their cleaning jobs more difficult. Thankfully, the majority of those who frequent hawker centres understand the important roles played by cleaners as essential workers in safeguarding public health, and do their part to keep Singapore clean.

The NEA has been deploying SG Clean Ambassadors to hawker centres since June 19 to advise patrons to return their trays and used crockery, and to properly dispose of their used tissues or wet wipes. Disappointingly, only about 60 per cent of diners comply when advised by our ambassadors.

The average tray return rate at new hawker centres with automated tray return and centralised dishwashing facilities, as well as a few existing hawker centres with manual tray return racks, is currently above 60 per cent, compared with around 30 per cent for most other hawker centres across the island.

The locations of the centres with good tray return rates are well spread out geographically.

This shows that more can be done to improve tray return rates, and all of us can play a part starting with the hawker centre that we patronise.

We urge everyone to work with the NEA to take greater ownership of our hawker centres, to help maintain the clean and hygienic environment of our community dining rooms.

Andrew Low

Director, Hawker Centres Division

National Environment Agency

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2020, with the headline Forum: Over a third refuse to return trays, clear used tissues at hawker centres. Subscribe