Monday 5 November 2012

Push for tray return to start at 9 food centres

By Tan Qiuyi, Channel NewsAsia, 3 Nov 2012

A renewed push to get patrons to clear their own trays will kick off with a first batch of nine hawker centres from this month.

The hawker centre at Block 726 Clementi West Street 2 will be the first to start the tray return initiative on 11 November.

The other food centres -- North Bridge Road Food Centre, Zion Riverside Food Centre, Tiong Bahru Market, Kallang Estate Food Centre, Block 137 Tampines Street 24, Block 628 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, Block 16 Bedok South, and Block 254 Jurong East Street 24 -- will follow over the next three months.

Authorities said the move is an effort towards building a more gracious society in Singapore.

Dirty dishes left on the tables are a common sight at food centres all over the country. 

But there is a possibility of change to come -- at least at nine hawker centres. These include popular ones in the city, as well as several others in the heartlands in the western, northern and eastern parts of the island.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, made the announcement at the launch of the Clean and Green 2013 campaign on Saturday.

He said: "The objective is to make tray return a default, to make it something which we all do out of habit, and to ensure that peer pressure always exists to keep us all doing the right thing."

One way to make it work, said Dr Balakrishnan, is to have tray-return facilities at all food centres.

The National Environment Agency said food centres will be retrofitted with facilities designed to make it convenient for customers to deposit their trays -- for example, racks and trolleys that can take different tray sizes and stacked crockery.

There have been several tray-return campaigns in the past, but these have not really taken off.

Dr Balakrishnan said it is not just about having the right infrastructure to make tray return convenient and easy -- what is needed here is a mindset change.

"It's not just about being clean in a sterile sense of the word, but clean because it reflects us, our values, our consideration for each other, our responsibility and stewardship of the environment, of our homes and the environment outside our homes," he added.

"It will be ingrained as part and parcel of our habits, it's something we do in schools, it's something we do in national service, it's something we do in our hawker centres, it's something we do at home. This becomes part and parcel of our way of life -- that's really what we're trying to achieve."

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said: "I echo minister Vivian Balakrishnan's call that Singapore needs to turn from a "cleaned city" into a "clean city".

He added that every individual here -- citizens, transient workers, even the tourists -- should play his or her part to exercise graciousness and consideration.

The tray-return campaign is expected to roll out to all 107 food centres in Singapore over the next two years.

* Tray return drive off to slow start
West Coast food centre first to get new tray racks, but not all use them
By Jessica Lim, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2012

A NEW effort to get diners to return their food trays began yesterday at West Coast Hawker Centre as large signs went up to direct them to five new-style tray return points. Volunteers also urged patrons to clear up after eating.

The popular centre is the first to be outfitted with the new racks, which have three-tiered shelves without brackets to slide trays in.

The old racks - with brackets roughly 15cm high - meant that larger crockery items like hot pots could not fit in them.

Such tray return points will be rolled out to all 107 hawker centres under the National Environment Agency (NEA), which is leading the campaign to get consumers to return their plates and utensils.

At the West Coast centre at Block 726, Clementi West Street 2, about 100 volunteers will take turns to wear billboards and encourage customers to clear their tables this week.

They will be there during lunch hours on weekdays and in the mornings on weekends.

This is not the first such campaign.

Attempts in 2003 and 2008 did not fare well. People started returning their trays initially, but lapsed into their old ways after a while.

Even as the new experiment at hawker centres got under way yesterday, over at the Kopitiam-run foodcourt at JCube mall in Jurong East, Jurong GRC MPs Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Halimah Yacob went with volunteers to give out stalks of daisies to encourage diners to return their trays. This is the food court operator's first collaboration with a grassroots organisation on tray return.

At the West Coast Hawker Centre, some customers were seen returning their trays, but at least 10 tables were cluttered with dirty crockery. Some stallholders could also be seen pitching in and taking plates to the drop-off points.

The West Coast 726 Hawker Association vice-chairman, Mr Goy Thuan Heng, 48, who oversees the centre's eight cleaners, said that about half of the patrons returned their trays at lunchtime.

Patrons return used crockery to five drop-off points each manned by a cleaner who bins leftover food, sorts the dishes and returns them to stallholders for washing.

The remaining three cleaners wipe and clear any messy tables they spot.

Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry S. Iswaran, who was at the launch of the new scheme, said: "In the army camps, all the soldiers have to return their trays; in schools, we do it. I don't see why we should have a different standard when it comes to food centres."

The tray return initiative launched yesterday is a partnership between NEA, the South West Community Development Council, local community groups and schools, as well as ExxonMobil Asia Pacific.

ExxonMobil will be donating $2 (capped at $5,000) for every tray returned to Kids-Up @ South West - a fund that supports children from low-income families who are entering kindergarten.

A cleaner at the West Coast Hawker Centre said that his job has actually become more tiring: "Before, I pushed a cart around to collect dirty plates. Now, I have to stay at the station, and run back and forth to collect dirty plates too.

"I hope more people will return the plates to us."

Customers like Jurong resident Jona Baral, 30, were happy to do so. She returned her plate to a drop-off point and said: "It's good. We get a cleaner table faster too."

But when The Straits Times visited the hawker centre around 7.30pm, the mess had piled up.

There were more than 20 dirty tables and several cleaners had their trolleys out and were busy clearing tables.

Cleaner Angie Ng, 55, said: "At about 4.30pm, we started taking out our trolleys. We can't leave the dirty plates there. It's so unhygienic.

"It worked out in the morning, but by evening no one put their plates back any more."

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