Should I return my tray after eating?

By March 30, 2017Local Life

TL;DR – Do you?

We have been inculcated since our school days to return our trays, plates, bowls etc after every meal.

And then when we graduate, we just somehow stop doing so.


While I didn’t create a Facebook poll with 50 participants, I did ask around and many of the responses didn’t surprise me at all.

“Most of these places have cleaning staff so we do not need to do it ourselves, right?” 

“I’m doing my part to create jobs for the cleaning company and staff.” 

“If I clear my own trays, they will not wipe the table and the table will be dirty.” 

“I’m in a rush and I do not know where are said tray returning stations.”

I’ve always been a big believer of clearing your own trays. Imagine how much faster and easier it will be for everyone. Instead of having to clear someone else’s tray before sitting down at a hawker centre, wouldn’t it be better if you clear your own? It’s just a simple act of responsibility and the next patron can immediately take a seat and order their food. Not only is it more hygienic, it also speeds up everyone’s process of getting a table during peak hour which improves productivity during a work day.

Many eateries and food courts have started encouraging patrons to start returning their own trays but how successful is that? Some hawker centres give out free coffee while some places even give a dollar rebate for every tray returned but are these measures take enough? But, should we even be incentivised to clear up the mess that we made?

In 2013, NEA launched its Tray Return Initiative and all 109 hawker centres have had tray-return points installed. Close to 700 food outlets, including food courts and quick service restaurants, also have such facilities too.

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Despite all these, it is still a common sight to step into food courts and fast food restaurants with uncleared trays, especially during peak hours. What more can we do to change this? Are we once again proving the world right that as advanced as Singapore is as a nation, our society still isn’t gracious enough?


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Smith Leong

Author Smith Leong

Your resident Sports, and NetFlix but no chill guy. Also blogs at

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