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Strong support for diners clearing tables at public eating areas, but practice lacking: NEA

Strong support for diners clearing tables at public eating areas, but practice lacking: NEA

Used food utensils left on a table at Chinatown Complex Food Centre on Feb 5, 2021. (Photo: Ang Hwee Min)

SINGAPORE: There is a "chasm" between sentiments on keeping tables clean at public dining areas and actual practice on the ground, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Saturday (Feb 6). 

In a survey conducted at the end of 2020, NEA found that 90 per cent of respondents indicated that patrons should be required to clear their tables after eating at public dining places. 

It also found that 76 per cent of respondents said they returned their trays and/or used crockery most of the time at public dining places.

However, the average tray return rate at most hawker centres is "currently only at around 30 per cent". 

This indicates that "the actual practice on the ground does not match up with individual espoused behaviour when it comes to tray return", NEA said.

There is also a wide disparity in tray return rates among hawker centres.

Hawker centres at Tiong Bahru, Marine Parade Central, Bukit Merah Central, Adam Road, Our Tampines Hub and Kampong Admiralty have relatively high tray return rates of greater than 60 per cent, the agency said. 

Most other hawker centres see a rate of less than 30 per cent.

READ: Leaving behind trays, food debris at hawker centres could expose others to diseases: Health experts

Other surveys by NEA suggest members of the public are more likely to clear their tables if tray return infrastructure is conveniently and prominently located. 

Large dining groups were also less likely to return their trays, NEA said, and that these groups may require a nudge from cleaners and volunteers to clear their tables.

“There is a chasm between what diners think they should do and what diners are actually (not) doing, when it comes to clearing the table of litter and used crockery after their meals," said Tan Meng Dui, NEA's chief executive officer.

CLEAN TABLES CAMPAIGN

NEA has launched a Clean Tables Campaign in a bid to bridge this gap. 

It seeks to remind diners at public dining places to keep the tables clean, by clearing their used tissues and wet wipes, disposable crockery, and returning their trays and used crockery.

The initiative was launched on Saturday by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at Yuhua Village Hawker Centre and Broadway Coffeeshop at Toh Guan Road.

Reminders, such as posters, banners, visual cues and audio announcements, will be rolled out progressively to all 111 hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts from this month, NEA said. 

NEA will be rolling out a series of posters featuring typical diners at public dining premises to educate diners on the right etiquette and behaviour when dining out. (Photo: National Environment Agency)
NEA will be rolling out a series of posters featuring typical diners at public dining premises to educate diners on the right etiquette and behaviour when dining out. (Photo: National Environment Agency)

More tray return racks will also be put in place at hawker centres.

NEA and the Singapore Food Agency will be working with coffee shops and food courts to improve the infrastructure and systems for keeping tables clean over the next few months.

READ: What would make Singaporeans return their trays? How about a siren?

"Daunting as it may seem, clean tables at our public dining places can be attained. We have achieved good results at some hawker centres, though not enough to make a difference at the national level," Mr Tan said.

"We need strong support from all stakeholders, including stallholders, cleaning contractors, cleaners, and most of all, diners."

Mr Tan urged diners to "close the loop" and adopt a self-service concept, pointing out that many already collect their own food and crockery from food stalls.

"NEA seeks the support from the public to cooperate with cleaners, as we all work towards the norm of having cleaner tables at our public dining places,” he said.

Source: CNA/kv(ac)

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