Pilot residents group aims to improve cleanliness of coffee shops in Jurong

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu at the launch of this year's Keep Clean, Singapore campaign at NTUC Centre on April 24, 2022. ST PHOTO: THADDEUS ANG

SINGAPORE - A new residents group aims to raise the cleanliness of a few coffee shop toilets in Jurong, even as four tourist attractions joined several neighbourhoods in a no-sweeping movement to highlight how much litter piles up in reality without cleaners' intervention.

From next month, three to four residents and grassroots leaders from the Neighbourhood Toilets Community Group will be posted to each of three coffee shops, located at Block 318 Jurong East Avenue 1, Block 494 Jurong West Street 41, and Block 429 Jurong West Avenue 1.

They will encourage staff and customers to follow good toilet etiquette and inform owners of the premises if the toilets are in need of more frequent cleaning.

This pilot, which is expected to last till July, is spearheaded by the Public Hygiene Council, in partnership with the Yuhua Citizens Consultative Committee, Jurong-Clementi Town Council and grassroots organisations.

If amenities and items such as the flushing system, dryers, soap dispensers or tissue rolls are not working or need to be replenished, the volunteers will inform the coffee shop owners as well.

The community group will also decorate the toilets with plants and floral ornaments to make them look presentable.

The Neighbourhood Toilets Community Group pilot is one of the new hygiene-related initiatives announced by the Public Hygiene Council on Sunday (April 24), at the launch of this year's edition of its month-long Keep Clean, Singapore campaign.

The launch was held at NTUC Centre in One Marina Boulevard.

It also introduced the Public Hygiene Council's new mascots that will promote the council's three focus areas - tray return, proper binning of trash, and good toilet etiquette.

Sunday was also the second day of the year where there was no sweeping at some public spaces at housing estates across 17 towns, dormitories, parks and gardens from 6am to midnight.

This ongoing quarterly initiative is called SG Clean Day, which aims to raise awareness about the amount of litter piled up without cleaners' intervention.

For the first time, four tourist attractions joined the SG Clean Day efforts.

All open areas at Gardens by the Bay and Resorts World Sentosa, as well as the Singapore Zoo retail store and Siloso Beach in Sentosa, ceased sweeping on Sunday, and will continue the practice on future SG Clean Days.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, who was at the launch on Sunday, said that as at April 11, more than 34,000 premises in Singapore have been given the SG Clean quality mark, a certification of hygiene standards given to organisations and businesses.

The certification is part of the SG Clean campaign which started in February 2020 to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and raise hygiene standards in public places.

Public Hygiene Council executive director Gloria Tan noted that the quality mark started as a Covid-19 management measure to assure members of the public that the certified places were clean and safe.

Cleanliness standards will be further elevated over time, she added.

A study by the Singapore Management University released in May 2020 found that public toilet hygiene standards had declined significantly in local hawker centres and coffee shops, with toilets in coffee shops being comparatively dirtier.

Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D'Silva said dirty toilets can become a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.

"Unfortunately, many people see public toilets as places they transit through and think it is somebody else's job to keep them clean."

Ms Tan added: "When people see a coffee shop toilet that is poorly maintained, the tendency to not maintain it properly will remain."

But when people use pristine toilets, they are less inclined to make a mess, said Mr D'Silva.

The council is in talks with more coffee shop owners and town councils in other neighbourhoods to expand the Neighbourhood Toilets Community Group initiative from August.

There are about 1,100 coffee shops islandwide.

In late 2020, the National Environment Agency started the Toilet Improvement Programme, which provides co-funding for coffee shop operators and town councils to improve toilet design, install sanitary fittings, and adopt technology to enhance the cleaning and maintenance of toilets in coffee shops and hawker centres.

Thirty-eight eligible coffee shops and 10 hawker centres applied for the programme by August last year.

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