Diners who fail to clear tables at hawker centres may face $300 fine from 1 Sept: NEA

·Editorial Team
·3-min read

SINGAPORE — Be prepared to be fined $300 if you do not clear your dirty tray, crockery and litter at a table after a meal at any hawker centre from 1 September.

To help diners familiarise themselves and adjust, there will first be a three-month advisory period from 1 June to 31 August, during which the National Environment Agency (NEA) will take an advisory approach and no enforcement will be taken, said the agency on Friday (14 May).

It added that it will work with the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to roll out enforcement progressively at coffee shops and food courts in the fourth quarter of the year.

"The NEA is not enacting a new law, as leaving litter on dining tables is enforceable as a littering offence under Section 17(1) of the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA). However, the NEA will take a pragmatic posture, such as enforcing against diners who do not heed advice by enforcement officers to clear their dirty trays, crockery, and litter after dining," the NEA said.

During the advisory period, Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs), SG Clean Ambassadors, Community Volunteers and NEA officers deployed at hawker centres will continue to remind diners to clear their dirty trays, crockery, and litter, such as used tissues and wet wipes, straws, wrappers, canned drinks, plastic bottles, and food remnants.

Visual cues such as posters and banners will also be progressively installed at hawker centres to remind diners to clear their tables, said the NEA, as well as setting up more tray return infrastructure across all hawker centres to support diners to return their dirty trays and crockery.

When enforcement begins on 1 September at all hawker centres, enforcement officers will continue to advise diners to properly clear their dirty tray, crockery, and litter and enforcement will apply to diners who do not heed the officers’ advice. 

Diners who do not heed the advice will have their particulars taken down. First-time offenders will be issued a written warning and second-time offenders will face a composition fine of $300. 

Subsequent offenders may face court fines. Enforcement will not be taken against the less-abled or frail elderly who are unable to clear their tables.

"The NEA will monitor the ground situation and make adjustments over time to the enforcement posture accordingly," the agency said.

It added that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to maintain high public hygiene and cleanliness standards. 

"Various members of the public and institutions, such as the Public Hygiene Council, have called for stronger levers including legislation to raise table cleanliness standards at public dining places," the NEA said.

The agency also noted that while the results from the Clean Tables Campaign, launched on 6 February, were good at some places, "it is not as satisfactory as we would like". 

"Since the launch of the Clean Tables Campaign, there has only been a nominal improvement in the average Tray/Crockery Return Rate (TCRR), from 33 per cent before the launch of the campaign to the current 35 per cent.," it said.

This is despite 76 per cent of the respondents indicating that they return their trays or dirty crockery, or both, most of the time in an NEA survey in March. 

The difference shows that actual practice on the ground does not match up with individual espoused behaviour, said the NEA.

"With only slight improvements being achieved thus far after much effort on education and outreach, a stepped-up advisory and enforcement approach will help raise our public hygiene standards at public dining places, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic," it added.

"We urge everyone to work with NEA to take greater ownership of our public dining places, and to maintain high hygiene and cleanliness standards at these areas. This will allow us to enjoy our meals in a clean and hygienic environment and better safeguard ourselves against any public health risks."

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