Table-clearing enforcement rule kicks off at hawker centres, some still flouting rule

SINGAPORE – The first day of tray return enforcement kicked off on Wednesday (Sept 1) with most patrons at some hawker centres here diligently clearing their own trays. However, cleaners said that some patrons still attempted to flout the rules and left used crockery and litter on tables.

When The Straits Times visited Redhill Food Centre on Wednesday morning, the centre’s toilet attendant Mdm Ong Hong Luan, 76, said: “Some (errant patrons) come in very early at 4am to 5am to eat before working, before any of the cleaners come in.

“They left their trays because they thought no one would see and catch them,” said Mdm Ong in Mandarin.

From Wednesday, enforcement will be taken against those who do not comply with advice to clean up after themselves in hawker centres – after a three-month advisory period.

First-time offenders will be given a written warning, while second-time offenders will face a $300 composition fine. Subsequent offenders may face court fines, which can go up to $2,000 for the first conviction.

Enforcement of the rule requiring diners to clear used crockery and table litter at coffee shops and foodcourts has been pushed back to January next year (2022).

The Straits Times also visited Serangoon Gardens Market and Food Centre, where people could be seen returning their trays to designated tray return stations during breakfast and lunch.

Announcements were regularly broadcast at the hawker centre in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil to remind patrons to observe safe distancing and to return their trays after use. National Environment Agency (NEA) officers were also on hand to patrol the market, and remind people to return their trays.

The tray return stations at both hawker centres in Redhill and Serangoon Gardens were cleared frequently by cleaners to ensure ample space. Cleaners were also going around to wipe the tables clean after patrons had left.

Mr Oh Tiong Li, 53, cleaning supervisor at Redhill Food Centre, hoped that NEA enforcement officers would be “empathetic to seniors”, especially those using canes and wheelchairs, and not warn or fine them indiscriminately.

“It’s not easy for them to return trays as they may not be able to move as well or the trays may be heavy for them,” said Mr Oh.

Retiree Wai Fooi, 78, who visits Redhill Food Centre regularly said: “If there is a tray return station nearby I still can return it. I have had surgery on both my knees. Now, my friends and I prefer to get our food in takeaway packets to eat at the hawker centre. It’s easier to throw the packets away as they are lighter and more convenient.”