‘Some form of regulation’ being considered to boost tray return rate: Amy Khor

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A tray return rack at the Beach Road Food Centre. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
A tray return rack at the Beach Road Food Centre. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) may consider legislation to boost the tray return rate in response to public feedback, said Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor on Thursday (4 March)

Speaking during her ministry's budget debate in Parliament, Dr Khor said that the NEA will "conduct another survey on public attitudes towards tray return. We will also consider if we need to move beyond education to some form of regulation, as some members of the public have suggested."

An NEA survey shows that nine out of 10 respondents felt that diners ought to clear their tables after eating at public dining places where tray return facilities are available.

However, while 75 per cent of respondents indicated they would return their trays or crockery, the average tray return rate is about 30 per cent, according to the NEA.

Speaking on the need to foster individual responsibility around public hygiene, Dr Khor said, “This involves behavioural change, which is very challenging, but it is the only sustainable way forward... It is an uphill task to get individuals to clear their tables, old habits die hard, but it can be done.”

Dr Khor also spoke about the recently launched Clean Tables campaign at hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts. The campaign, launched last month, will be rolled out at all such premises in the coming months, she said.

She cited the example of Bukit Merah Central Food Centre, where the Hawkers Association customised trays with educational messages and worked with hawkers and table cleaners to encourage patrons to return trays. The food centre has achieved an “exemplary” tray return rate of more than 70 per cent and Dr Khor urged other hawker centers to follow the lead.

The NEA will install around 75 tray return racks at hawker centres in addition to the 900 today. At coffeeshops, 10 per cent have tray return infrastructure and the Singapore Food Agency will work with the remaining operators to implement localised solutions, she added.

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