Photo of elderly from Facebook

The National Environment Agency (NEA) today (Jan 30) announced that food centre patrons will have to pay up to S$1 for food tray return deposit in all 25 food centres across the island.

According to NEA, the S$1 deposit will “encourage younger Singaporeans to pick up hawker centre cleaner as a profession”, “boost productivity” and “promote gracious behaviour”.

“It is part of a government push to boost productivity in hawker centres amid tightening manpower constraints, to attract younger Singaporeans to enter the profession, and also to promote more gracious behaviour among food patrons.”

Senior Minister of State Amy Khor claimed that the S$1 deposit will also improve hygiene and cleanliness, and reduce workload on the hawkers.

“Apart from the tray return system helping to improve the hygiene and cleanliness of the environment, the centralised dishwashing service also reduces the workload on the hawkers so they can concentrate on food preparation and cooking, which is their core business activity. It also ensures that they will continue to have a steady supply of clean cutlery and crockery even during peak hours.”

Photo of tray return station from Straits Times

The move however was proven a failure in two food centres that piloted the S$1 tray return deposit system. In an earlier report by Chinese papers Shin Ming Ri Bao, customers resisted against the government project by returning only the tray to get back their deposit, while leaving behind the cutlery on the table. Food court cleaners also reported they had more work to do, and the overall cleanliness of the food centre worsened.

NEA also banned cleaners who collected the food tray left behind by customers to get the S$1 deposit, and that the S$1 will go into the government’s special fund.