Singapore—An article in The Straits Times (ST) tackled the question whether Singapore’s eateries have become cleaner since the SG Clean campaign was launched in February last year, which coincided with the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The short answer: Not really.
While ST says the average tray return rate was two percentage points higher in March 2021 than it was in July 2020, when ST visited 12 hawker centres, nine foodcourts and six coffee shops last month, it still found dirty floors and tables.
What’s the big deal, one might ask?
Singapore is well-known for its “endless pursuit of cleanliness”, as a BBC report earlier this month put it.
Indeed, the country is a place “so clean that bubble gum is a controlled substance”, noted the New York Times.
Cleanliness is of utmost importance in Singapore because it has been “synonymous with major social progress, unprecedented economic growth and, most recently, a coordinated containment of the coronavirus pandemic,” the BBC added.
But for hawker centres, well, there seems to be much room for improvement.
ST reported seeing used tissue paper, plastic cups, straws, and bags strewn around the floor of Teck Ghee Market and Food Centre, due to fans blowing air around.
The same situation was seen at the Old Airport Road hawker centre, in addition to birds feasting on food remains off plates.
However, ST noted that smaller eateries “were generally cleaner”, with safe distancing ambassadors reminding people about returning their trays and tables that were clean.
But the majority (60 per cent) of cleaners and stall operators that ST spoke to said that tables are as dirty as they were before Covid-19 and the SG Clean campaign—with the main issues being unreturned trays and tissue paper left on tables and floors.
These are by no means new problems, but due to the pandemic, tissue paper that is improperly disposed of could be more dangerous than in the past, as they could carry diseases.
ST quotes the National Environment Agency (NEA) as appealing to the public for the correct disposal of tissue.
“When left lying around, used tissues or wet wipes pose a health risk… In view of the current pandemic, NEA seeks support from the public to address table litter at our public dining places.”
The SG Clean Campaign started with a goal to “raise standards of cleanliness and public hygiene in Singapore and safeguard public health” and to get people to take personal responsibility for cleanliness wherever they went. The campaign stepped up its game with an additional thrust in February called the Clean Tables Campaign, urging people to clear table litter—including tissue paper and food rests, as well as to return trays.
However, ST noted that “a month after the Clean Tables Campaign was launched, NEA findings showed there was not much improvement in tray return rates at hawker centres”.
And while Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, said that there has been a degree of improvement, more work is necessary.
“We still have some way to go to inculcate a strong sense of social responsibility in people to do their part to keep shared, public spaces clean,” she is quoted in ST as saying.
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