Hawkers at Jurong West Hawker Centre will no longer have to pay a 20-cent fee each time a tray is returned, following discussions with the hawker centre's operator.
Instead, the system will be changed to one where customers pay a 20-cent deposit to collect clean trays for use, and are refunded the same amount when they return the trays at designated collection points.
The decision came after Hawker Management, which manages the Jurong centre, met most of its hawkers over the past few days.
In a statement yesterday, Hawker Management said: "In line with the objective to encourage a gracious society where patrons play a proactive role in returning their trays, the tray-return initiative will thereby help to reduce cleaning fees for tenants while easing the workload of the cleaners."
Hawker Management will work closely with tenants to work out the mechanics and operational details.
Once these details are finalised, it will announce when the new deposit-based tray-return initiative will take effect.
The operator added that following the meetings, a committee comprising hawker representatives will be formed and it will work closely with Hawker Management to drive and implement changes at the hawker centre, including on how to improve footfall.
In addition, the statement said Hawker Management has also noted all other feedback and comments gathered from the meetings, including contractual terms, and is in the midst of reviewing them internally, with a view to address all outstanding matters quickly.
When contacted, Makansutra founder and food critic K. F. Seetoh, who first raised the issue of the tray-return fee in a website post on Oct 9, told The Straits Times that the new system is "a good start".
However, he added: "I think people should not be incentivised to be gracious. We do not pay people to be civic-minded."
Rather, he suggests that a sense of civic mindedness can be encouraged through education, especially of the young.
"Ikea does not pay people to return trays, yet most customers there do so conscientiously. If it can be done at Ikea, why can't it be done at a hawker centre?"
Despite the outcome, some hawkers still feel that tray use should be free. Mr S. Govindaraju, 39, who co-owns a stall selling nasi briyani and roti prata at the hawker centre, said: "I do not like the original tray-return system. But with this new system, I am concerned customers will not want to come here now. If you ask me, I think there should be no system at all, and people should be able to use trays for free."