1. Is it an offence if a diner clears his/her dirty tray and crockery, but leaves behind tissues or empty drink cans, or food remnants such as shells and bones on the dining table?
Yes, no one should leave behind any litter in any public place, except in a dustbin or other receptacle provided for the deposit of refuse and rubbish. This includes used tissues, wet wipes, drink cans, shells and bones. Diners can return their litter together with the dirty crockery at tray and crockery return stations.
2. Are diners expected to remove trays, dirty crockery and litter left behind by the previous diner?
Cleaners will assist to remove trays, dirty crockery and litter left behind by the previous diner. We urge all diners to return their dirty trays and crockery, remove litter and keep the tables clean for the next diner.
3. Will NEA enforce against the elderly, the less-abled, or children under 12 years old for table littering?
Enforcement will not be taken against the frail elderly or less-abled, or children who are clearly unable to clear their tables. These groups would typically be those who are unable to order and bring the food ordered to the tables on their own to begin with. Family members or dining companions of these groups should help to dispose of the litter and return the dirty trays and crockery. Those able to bring the trays and food to the table on their own should likewise be able to return their dirty trays and crockery.
4. Will cleaners lose their jobs if I clear the trays for them?
Cleaners will not lose their jobs just because diners clear their trays. The demands on cleaners have increased amidst the COVID19 pandemic. They are required to maintain and upkeep the general cleanliness of dining places, including regularly wiping and sanitising the tables, as well as clearing and sorting dirty crockery at the designated tray and crockery return points.
Returning one’s dirty tray and crockery will reduce the cleaners’ need to make frequent rounds to clear tables. They can instead focus on cleaning and sanitising the tables instead, enabling faster turnover of tables during peak mealtimes. This benefits hawkers, diners and cleaners.
5. What if the cleaner insists on clearing the table for diners?
In such situations, diners are welcome to let the cleaners clear the table. Cleaning contractors and cleaners have been briefed on the ‘self-service concept’ and table-cleaning workflow. Hence, we urge diners to take the initiative in keeping their tables clean and returning dirty trays and crockery.
6. Will there be sufficient trays and tray return stations for diners?
NEA and Hawkers’ Associations/Operators have ensured that there are sufficient tray and crockery return facilities at hawker centres. Currently, there are around 900 existing racks placed at our hawker centres, where diners can return their dirty trays and crockery. On top of this, 150 additional racks are being added progressively. NEA is also providing cooked food stallholders with new trays.
7. Will NEA improve the cleanliness of trays and tray return stations?
Stallholders have the responsibility to provide clean crockery and trays for diners, including washing and sanitising trays to ensure that the trays are clean.
NEA, in consultation with stakeholders such as the Environmental Management Association of Singapore (EMAS), cleaning companies and cleaners, is working on a revised table-cleaning workflow that focuses on getting tables cleaned and sanitised in an efficient manner, as well as tray and crockery return point management. Cleaning contractors can use this revised table-cleaning workflow to redesign their process to clear tray and crockery return stations in a timely manner.
8. Will there be more waste bins and wash basins installed at public dining places?
Currently, litter bins and wash basins are located at convenient locations within the hawker centres. Where necessary, NEA will work with the relevant stakeholders to install more litter bins and wash basins.
9. Why is the government focusing on table littering at this time?
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for us to maintain high public hygiene and cleanliness standards. Enforcement against table littering will complement educational efforts to maintain high standards of public health, which are even more critical during the pandemic. NEA will take an advisory approach until the end of August 2021, during which no enforcement action will be taken. Enforcement action against diners who refuse to heed our officers’ advice will commence from 1 September 2021.
10. Will the cost of cleaning services be reduced or will NEA pay less for cleaning services since we now have to clear our tables?
NEA does not get paid for cleaning services. Table-cleaning services are contracted at competitive market prices by either NEA, as part of an integrated cleaning contract, or contracted by the stallholders through their Hawkers’ Association or Managing Agent.
Even with diners being required to clear up after dining, cleaners are still required to maintain and upkeep the general cleanliness of dining places, including wiping and sanitising tables, and clearing and sorting dirty crockery at designated tray and crockery return points. Hence, we do not anticipate any reduction in cleaning costs to be paid by NEA or the stallholders in the immediate term.
By adopting a ‘self-service concept’ to clear up tables after meals, diners can contribute towards alleviating the shortage of cleaners in the cleaning workforce and mitigate the upward pressure on cleaning cost over time.
11. Are cleaning contractors reaping extra profits as cleaners will do less than before?
No. With public hygiene being an important first line of defence against diseases such as COVID-19, the workload of the table cleaning service providers has increased as they step up on the cleaning and disinfection work at dining places. Even with diners clearing their tables after meals, cleaners would still need to make sure that the tables are well cleaned and sanitised, and the trays and crockery are sorted and cleared from the tray and crockery return points in a timely manner.
12. Will NEA take enforcement action against diners at Zi Char/ Steamboat eating places within hawker centres/ coffeeshops?
The littering law applies to all diners in public dining places. NEA will take a pragmatic approach in situations where the stall has dedicated service staff to serve food to the table and to clear the crockery and utensils during and after the meal. Where it is unclear if the tables are served by dedicated staff, diners will be reminded to clear their dirty crockery and litter after their meals.