sda automated tray return

Automated Tray Return Atrocity: How Much more of Taxpayers is Being Wasted?

<photo courtesy: Yee Chin Teo>

Dear Friends,

The SDA has been pressing the government to keep wasteful and extravagant expenditure in check before raising GST and other taxes that will hurt Common Singaporeans.

The automated tray return system is just another of one those examples of wasteful spending.

This is apparently what goes on behind the scenes despite the shiny façade.

A conveyor belt simply rolls the crockery into a common bucket, where they are left to soak with all the food scraps.

The cleaner then has to manually scoop out the soiled utensils buried with all the waste and send them for dish-washing.

This is terribly unhygienic.

And, it dehumanizes our cleaners.

Hidden from the public eye, they are now cramped in a small space, surrounded by the stench of rotting food remnants, and have to plow their hands through this filth.

This wasn’t always the case.

Conventionally, cleaners would go around the open spaces in hawker centres, dump food waste in a trash bag, and send the crockery for washing.

At least these elderly folks got some fresh air, human contact and, to quote our current Speaker of Parliament’s phrase about cardboard collectors, some “exercise”.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State of the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, proudly unveiled this automated tray return system in 2018.

The poorly-designed mechanics was plain to see even then from a video captured by the Straits Times.

And it seems that one of the pitifully few “automated” features was to return you your 50 cents change for returning your tray.

In fact, the photo you see here was taken by an experienced architect, who strongly condemned the design of the system.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), which operates over 100 hawker centres, says that all new ones and existing suitable ones will be fitted with this automated tray return system.

That could potentially cost millions in taxpayers monies, based on cost estimates of similar machines in the market.

Hawkers have complained that the cost of dishwashing has spiked following this new scholarly initiative.

To this, the NEA offered to temporarily subsidise 70 percent of the operating cost.

So, our taxpayers’ money been wasted on an unhygienic and dehumanizing system, not including future cost of machine maintenance.

And we have to help alleviate the cost burden on hawkers, who will feel the pinch when the subsidies run dry.

Has life gotten better for our cleaners and our hawkers?

None of those that SDA volunteers spoke to have said yes to that question.

What they do agree with, is that our tax money has gone to waste.

Singaporeans are not cash cows that the Ivory Tower can milk any time it is strapped for cash.

Before forcing us to tighten our belts again and again, they should touch their hearts and ask themselves if they have been running a tight ship when it comes to our money.

Desmond Lim
Singapore Democratic Alliance

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