NEA to co-fund toilet improvement works for coffee shops, hawker centres by up to 90 per cent

The Bill seeks to raise Singapore's general standards of hygiene and instil a national culture of keeping the country clean. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Coffeeshop operators can apply to get up to 90 per cent funding from the National Environment Agency (NEA) to improve the cleanliness and design of their toilets under a new programme launched on Friday (Oct 2).

Coined the Toilet Improvement Programme, the funding, capped at $45,000, will cover better designs and newer technologies, as well as more effective cleaning measures for toilets in coffeeshop and hawker centres .

Only coffee-shop operators which remove existing smoking corners on their premises are eligible for 90 per cent funding.

"This is to incentivise coffee-shop operators who have smoking corners on their premises to eradicate the problem of second-hand smoke and create a more pleasant dining environment for all their patrons," the NEA said.

Coffee-shop operators which do not have existing smoking corners in their premises are eligible for 70 per cent co-funding, capped at $35,000.

Those who choose not to remove existing smoking corners can get 60 per cent co-funding, capped at $30,000.

If coffee-shop operators accept the funding, it would be mandatory for them to have a contract to carry out deep cleaning of renovated toilets once every fortnight.

The NEA said the cost of deep cleaning will be subsidised up to 90 per cent for the first year and it should be carried out on top of the daily cleaning of the toilets.

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

Mr Edward D'Silva, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, said it is important to keep public toilets clean as they contribute to the overall cleanliness and hygiene of the dining environment.

"Dilapidated toilets that are wet and dirty are potential breeding grounds for germs and viruses. If stallholders do not have clean toilets, this may lead to contamination of the food they prepare for us," he said.

Mr Kenneth Lee, who operates Hai Fong Coffeeshop, said he is keen to apply for the programme, but is concerned that the renovation of toilets might impact his business.

"Renovation results in a lot of dust in the air and I'm afraid that would affect the hygiene of the food and the environment. It could also affect the business of the coffee shop as some diners do not like loud construction noises," he said.

But Mr Lee, who is also chairman of Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar Owners Association, said the scheme is good for older coffee shops like his, where toilets have not been renovated in the last 20 years.

The Toilet Improvement Programme also covers hawker centres, with a focus on improving the design of toilets, the choice of sanitary fittings, as well as to encourage users to maintain toilet cleanliness.

The funding will be given to the respective town councils and the amount of funding awarded also depends on the treatment of smoking corners.

The toilet funding programme is slated to run till March 31, 2022.

Other efforts to improve toilet hygiene include a half-day training session for cleaners launched by the NEA and Restroom Association (Singapore) on Sept 1.

After the training session, the association will conduct an audit and give advice to coffeeshop operators on toilet maintenance.

As of Wednesday (Sept 30), the NEA said 214 coffee-shop operators have sent their cleaners for training.

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