The foodcourt at the new Marsiling Mall has adopted the automated tray system, where customers pay a deposit of $1 when they purchase their meals and are refunded when they return their trays to a central collection point.
However, the system is not as successful as it should be.
I have noticed that hawkers allow customers to refuse a tray when buying food and exclude the $1 deposit from their bill.
These customers have their meal then leave their used utensils behind, and do not return them to the central collection point.
As a result, cleaners have to collect the utensils, leaving them with less time to focus on other tasks, such as keeping the tables clean.
It is clear that such customers chose not to receive a tray to avoid returning them after their meals.
For the tray-returning habit to develop, the management should make it mandatory for customers to be issued a tray. Hawkers should play their part and cooperate.
Otherwise, the automated tray return system would become a white elephant.