Written Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Tray Returns
Mr Gan Thiam Poh: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether the Ministry will work with all hawker stalls, coffee shops and food court operators to provide incentives to consumers in the return of food trays in view of savings in table clearing costs; and (b) whether the Ministry will look into the use of recyclable trays or paper table cloths that can be used as wrappers of food waste for proper, hygienic and quick disposal by consumers into dustbins.
1 COVID-19 has underscored the need for high public hygiene and cleanliness standards. To strengthen environmental public health and keep our dining environment clean, the National Environment Agency (NEA) had announced that diners are required to clear their dirty trays, crockery, and litter after their meals at public dining spaces from June 2021.
2 We do not anticipate any reduction in cleaning costs to stallholders, as the cleaners will still be required for tasks such as sorting crockery at tray return points as well as cleaning and sanitising tables. In fact, the demands on cleaners have increased due to COVID-19. Diners returning their trays, crockery and litter will help to mitigate manpower challenges in the cleaning workforce and possible upward cost pressures over time.
3 NEA is progressively installing more tray and crockery return stations as well as providing new trays to stallholders. NEA has been engaging the cleaning companies on the revised table-cleaning workflow, for a more effective and efficient process.
4 The trays in hawker centres are reusable. We do not advocate the use of single-use materials, as they are not environmentally sustainable. Diners are required to return their dirty trays and crockery and dispose of their litter, which includes used tissues, and food remnants like shells and bones. Cleaners will help to clean and sanitise the tables thereafter. Diners may use the washbasins provided to wash their hands after returning their trays and crockery to the designated return stations.