Mandatory for diners to return trays and clear table litter from June 1

From Sept 1, enforcement will be taken against those who do not clean up after themselves at hawker centres. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - It will be mandatory for diners to return their trays and clear their table litter from June 1, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Friday (May 14).

Table litter includes used tissues, wet wipes, straws, canned drinks, plastic bottles and food remnants.

As part of an effort to help diners adjust, no enforcement action will be taken until after Aug 31. During the three months, they will only be advised to follow the rule.

From Sept 1, enforcement will be taken against those who do not comply with advice to clean up after themselves in public dining places.

First-time offenders will be given a written warning. Second-time offenders will face a $300 composition fine, and subsequent offenders may face court fines, which can go up to $2,000 for the first conviction.

The Singapore Food Agency will also work with NEA to roll out enforcement progressively at coffee shops and foodcourts in the fourth quarter of this year.

NEA said the move, which comes amid a public health crisis, followed years of extensive educational efforts to change behaviour and mindsets of diners in public places.

NEA deputy chief executive of public health and director-general of public health Chew Ming Fai said: "We've been talking about these clean tables since 2013, and there's been a lot of education effort that has been put out over the years."

One example is the Clean Tables Campaign launched in February this year.

Mr Chew said: "Following that exercise, we've seen a small uptick in terms of tray return rates from 33 per cent to 35 per cent, but unfortunately, I don't think that is significant enough."

NEA will be setting up more tray return infrastructure across the hawker centres. Currently, there are about 900 tray return racks installed across 111 hawker centres.

During the advisory period, safe distancing ambassadors, SG Clean ambassadors, community volunteers and NEA officers being deployed at hawker centres will continue to remind diners to clear their dirty trays, crockery and litter.

Visual cues such as posters and banners will also be progressively installed at hawker centres.

NEA said Covid-19 has underscored the need to maintain high public hygiene and cleanliness standards, and various members of the public and institutions have called for stronger measures to raise cleanliness standards, including the use of legislation.

Clearing dirty trays, crockery and table litter will not only protect other diners, but also the cleaners, who are usually the elderly.

NEA said: "We urge everyone to work with NEA to take greater ownership of our public dining places and to maintain high hygiene and cleanliness standards at these areas. This will allow us to enjoy our meals in a clean and hygienic environment and better safeguard ourselves against any public health risks."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.