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

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 and wet wipes, straws, canned drinks, plastic bottles and food remnants left behind after dining.

To help diners adjust, there will be a three-month advisory period from June 1 to Aug 31, during which diners will be advised to follow the rules and no enforcement action will be taken.

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

First-time offenders will be given a written warning. Subsequent offenders may face composition or 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 takes place amid the public health crisis that Singapore is facing, comes after years of extensive educational efforts to change behaviour and mindsets of diners at public places.

NEA’s 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 to remind diners to step up the cleanliness in public dining places, such as not leaving food remnants behind after eating and clearing their dirty crockery.

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.”

To complement enforcement, NEA will also be setting up more tray return infrastructure across the hawker centres.

Currently, there are about 900 tray return racks installed across 111 hawker centres.

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