SINGAPORE - Getting Singaporeans to return their trays at hawker centres has always been a challenge. But at a hawker centre in Toa Payoh West, the tray-return initiative yields rewards that are enticing enough for a group of middle-aged women to return trays for others as well.
The initiative was introduced by the National Environment Agency in 2012, but this hawker centre at Block 127, Toa Payoh West, joined the initiative only three weeks ago.
Patrons who return trays between 10am and noon on weekends will get 50-cent coupons from volunteers. These coupons can be used at the hawker centre or at the wet market one floor below.
Since the start of the initiative, a volunteer has spotted a group of about five to six women who would turn up punctually every weekend at the hawker centre to return trays belonging to other patrons, evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported yesterday.
When interviewed, stall owners said they have also noticed this.
Wanbao reported that one of the women even said in Mandarin: "I've been going to and fro, helping others to return trays. I've gone back and forth twice, so I should get two coupons!"
While others may not go to the extreme of forming groups just to get the coupons, there are families who send members to return the trays and retrieve coupons one at a time, in order to redeem as many coupons as they can.
One family even split up to return their trays at four tray-return locations.
Volunteers at the hawker centre said that each person is entitled to only one coupon, but this has not deterred patrons from returning two or three times.
In order to avoid altercations, the volunteers issue these patrons another coupon, while reminding them that they are only entitled to one.
With this initiative, about 50 to 60 per cent of patrons at the hawker centre now return their trays, compared with only 10 to 20 per cent in the past.
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