As part of a broader effort to promote good hygiene and encourage social responsibility in Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) have announced that they will be stepping up enforcement against littering in public dining places.
Currently, SFA’s enforcement officers are deployed to advise diners to clear their used trays and crockery. Those who refuse to heed officers’ advice will receive written warnings, and repeat offenders can be fined or charged in court.
However, to reinforce good habits and deter the minority of diners who repeatedly fail to return their used trays and crockery, NEA and SFA will be stepping up their actions against table littering starting on 1 June 2023.
Stricter Enforcements Regarding Returning of Trays
From 1 June 2023, stricter enforcement measures will be implemented to ensure that the efforts of diners who return their used trays and crockery are not undermined by the inconsiderate behaviour of the minority 10% of diners who do not.
Enforcement officers will now require the details of diners who fail to return their used trays and crockery at hawker centres, coffee shops, and food courts.
First-time offenders will receive a written warning immediately instead of an advisory, while repeat offenders will face fines or court charges.
However, NEA and SFA have emphasised that they will take a pragmatic approach and not enforce the rules against the less-abled, frail elderly, and children who cannot clear their tables themselves.
Instead, they encouraged family members or friends to assist these individuals with clearing their tables.
Previous Rules for Returning Trays
NEA has made it compulsory for diners to return their trays and clear their table litter, including used tissues, wet wipes, straws, canned drinks, plastic bottles and food remnants, at foodcourts and coffee shops since 1 June 2021.
This was after years of extensive educational efforts to change diners’ behaviour and mindsets amid a public health crisis.
To help diners adjust, no enforcement action was taken until 31 August 2021. During the two-month advisory period that started in November 2021, over 7,000 diners were reminded to comply with the rule by the SFA officers, and almost all of them followed the advice.
Enforcement against non-compliance began on 1 September 2021. First-time offenders received a written warning, while second-time offenders were fined $300. Subsequent offenders faced court fines, which could go up to $2,000 for the first conviction.
Following the introduction of strict table littering regulations in September 2021, significant improvements have been observed in Singapore’s hawker centres and food courts, with the Tray and Crockery Return Rate (TCRR) at hawker centres rising from 65% in August 2021 to approximately 90% currently.
Before stricter enforcement in September 2021, only one in three diners returned their trays.
After the advisory period, only one individual was issued a written warning for breaching tray-return regulations across the 114 hawker centres operated by the NEA in 2021.
Food court and coffee shop operators reported that the new regulations had increased the turnover rate of clean tables, enabling cleaners to focus on sanitisation.
The TCRR at coffee shops and food courts have since remained at around 90%, according to a Public Cleanliness Satisfaction Survey conducted by the Singapore Management University (SMU) on 3 April 2023.
The survey found that 95% of diners consistently returned their used trays and crockery. Moreover, 84% of respondents believed individual diners were mainly responsible for the tray and crockery returns, up from 58% in 2021.
Stepped Up Enforcements Against Littering
In addition to the increased enforcement against table littering, NEA has planned to deploy remote surveillance cameras from April 2023 to tackle the increasing littering cases.
Between 2020 and 2022, NEA issued an average of 18,700 tickets for littering and high-rise littering. First-time littering offenders are fined $300, while repeat offenders may be prosecuted in court, fined, or sentenced to perform Corrective Work Order (CWO).
The CWO, introduced in 1992, requires repeat offenders to clean public areas for at least three to 12 hours. These sessions aim to remind them about the impact of littering and the difficulties faced by cleaners.
NEA issued a total of about 2,200 CWOs from 2020 to 2022.
They have since launched CWO sessions in city areas such as Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar in November 2022 to emphasise the impact of littering and increase the visibility of CWO sessions.
Informative standees have been put up around these locations to raise public awareness of CWO. These sessions will be expanded to the vicinity of Farrer Park from July 2023.
Encourages Citizens to Aid in Keeping Singapore Clean
The NEA and SFA continue to stress the importance of every individual’s role in keeping Singapore clean. They reiterated that they would continue to engage with the public and take enforcement action against offenders.
They mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need for high public hygiene and cleanliness standards, and various members of the public and institutions have since called for more robust measures to improve cleanliness standards, including the use of legislation.
Clearing used trays, crockery, and table litter is essential for the well-being of other diners and the cleaners, who are usually elderly.
Citizens are encouraged to take greater responsibility for the cleanliness of public dining places and to maintain high hygiene and cleanliness standards in those areas to ensure that everyone can enjoy their meals in a clean and hygienic environment and better protect themselves against public health risks.
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