Hawkers say 90% of customers just refuse to pay for or use trays since tray deposit scheme came into effect


Customers at 25 hawker centres will soon be charged a fee if they do not return their food trays at the tray return area. Customers are these hawker centres will be required to pay a deposit between S$0.50 and S$1 when they use a tray. This amount will be returned to them if they return their tray at the appropriate station.

This change is part of the new Automated Tray Return System (ATRS) that is being implemented at the 25 hawker centres, starting with Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre, which will charge 50 cents deposit per tray, and Bukit Merah Hawker Centre, which will charge a dollar for the same.

This move will supposedly allow cleaners to clean tables more quickly for the use of more customers.

However, hawkers at Marsiling Mall and Bukit Merah Central hawker centres claim that up to 90 per cent of customers refuse to pay for and use a tray all together, since the tray deposit scheme came into effect, even though their deposit will be refunded in full if they return the tray.

Hawkers say that used utensils and food scraps are still left on tables for cleaners to clear while customers at these hawker centres explained to reporters that they consider the tray return system a hassle.

One customer, banker Felix Lim, said: “Hawker food is meant to be ‘eat quick, eat cheap, then zhao already’. Now you want people to queue up to buy food, then queue up to return tray again? Siao ah. It’s a damn stupid idea.”

Another customer, pharmacist Megan Oh, asked: “Last time at hawker centres, the stall owner will serve you the meal then clear the dishes for you. Now, you have to take the food yourself, then return the dishes yourself. So prices go up, but service standards drop. Does this make sense?”

The ATRS scheme was recommended by the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee which was convened to lower hawkers’ workload and boost productivity in the face of manpower challenges in the industry.

While 23 other hawker centres are expected to adopt the system, it remains to be seen whether the system will be incorporated in the remaining centres in light of the findings at Marsiling Mall and Bukit Merah Central food centres.



  1. When it backfires so hard you need PREP-H to ease the pain. >.<

    Previously, stalls hired hands to serve the food, then 'self-service' came into effect. Now, beyond self-service, patrons ACTUALLY PAY to help themselves?

    Logic is up their arse.

    I really wouldn't mind returning the trays out of my own free will (which I always do) to help the staff. But if you are going to penalise me for something I should out of goodwill, I'd tell you, "UP YOURS!"

  2. I dont understand whats the fuss about ,the sporean have chosen PAP ,now the PAP is the one who makes the choices for you ,most of you are thinking that spore is a 1st world country everything is done for you ,even when you eat with your family like the chinese they expect the table to be clean and avaliable at all times ,you vote for a system for your well being and yet you hate the system ,so why vote for PAP than since you hate their system ,if this is a communist gov than be it .

  3. I eat at hawker centres n also much lesser at Food courts. At both places I normally return trays after eating, out of habit and not being forced upon to do so. I will continue to do so and avoid Centres which enforce rules of charging if one does not comply.
    I see this enforced rule is overreaching n hence the silent protest on part of customers.

  4. Self service is not a drop in service standards. It’s a different form of service standard.

    Supermarkets imposed a deposit for trolleys and they get returned. So why is a deposit for trays such a big issue.

    Unless Singaporeans are simply just spoilt and self centered! Therefore a need to impose a rule that hurts their pocket to make them behave.

  5. In my thoughts, in a developed country , people are civil n courteous enough to look out after themselves , clear the area after use considerately for the next person to use. That’s first world. If we insist and expect someone do the dirty job for us , clearly we are not ready to be considered a gracious enough society. Especially if the someone is elderly and usually not so agile and strong in body .

    • Agree! Civil , graciousness and socially responsible citizens are part of being a developed country. Don’t see what’s the issue of returning your tray and getting your deposit back?! It’s same for your MTR cards!

      If only these complaining Singaporeans get a chance to live abroad and frequently hear of how they are the envy of citizens of other Asian nations where Singapore enjoys political stability, where most citizens own their homes ( and not small even ) , clean and safe country with its citizens capable of speaking a minimum of 2 basic languages , they should be proud of themselves and advance their mindset and behavior to be civil and courteous and socially responsible society.
      Making an issue over a refundable deposit of $0.50 cents-$1 , just ridiculous !

  6. What to be surprised about the way NEA is going about on this return tray ideal? The Pinky’s white termite gang has applied systematic ” monetary coercion ” and “leegal intimidation” to bully the people for past 50years!! so it is passed down to all gov. org . to think and act that way or consciously or unconsciously!!!! nahbeh !!!

  7. Prices goes up is because the rental goes up; ask you to take the food yourself is because hawkers no longer can afford hiring staff because of high rental, ask you to return the trays yourself is because they wanted to stop hiring old people to collect the trays so they can eat the hiring money. Plain and easy.

  8. Last time is when? When we don’t have so many foreigners. Let’s face it; we didn’t ensure that we have 1st world mentality which begins in the home & è education system. If we had encouraged such values which can’t buy, then this issue won’t arise. Good habits are learned but as they say; take 3 days to be bad but 3 yrs to be good. It begins with us, so let’s not point fingers anymore. We may not all be elites but we’re God’s children made in His image so let’s behave as 1. God bless!

  9. A new way to help the rich hawker center owners to make money and reduce employing older people. Great gov we have that seem to find so many way to kill the older gen. By the time those 40 yr old retire they’ll have to commit suicide if they don’t have money to survive.