I see advertisements reminding people to "clear your table to avoid a fine". While the intention is to reinforce a sense of ownership in people, to ensure they clear their tables after eating, is a fine really what it takes to inculcate a sense of responsibility and a habit of clearing trays?
At coffee shops and hawker centres, I am put off by the sight of birds flying in to eat the remaining scraps of what an irresponsible diner has left behind.
To add to that, it is sad to see frail senior citizens clearing these bowls and plates. Sometimes they do not get any smile or word of gratitude.
A month ago, I visited the McDonald's Kallang outlet. At McDonald's, there is an option to either pick up your food or have it served to you. This option itself is puzzling, especially so in a fast-food joint.
I was appalled to see an old woman, with hands trembling, serving food to an able-bodied young man. What does it say about us when we cannot even pick up our own food that is a couple of metres away?
Singaporeans need to understand the impact of their actions on those working in the food and beverage sector instead of just fearing a fine.
We know that these people are on their feet all day - clearing trays, taking orders, serving customers - and it is hard to see members of the ageing population toiling like this.
I question the impact these campaign ads will have on Singaporeans' habits.
Instead of making the financial impact of a fine the main deterrent of this campaign, we should focus on the empathy we need to have.
Real change happens not when we instil fear, but when we evoke empathy among people.