Singaporeans, please stop being babies.

A hawker centre tries an initiative to get people to return trays. Return a tray and get a deposit back. What happens? They leave the utensils and trash, returning only the tray.

When supermarkets attempt a private initiative to raise price of plastic bags, Singaporeans rebel again. “Oh i’ll just throw my waste down the chute, charge me lah!”


This is the kind of act that babies, children and teenagers do. They would much rather perform an anti-social act than to reflect on their own behaviours.

“When you nickel and dime citizens, this is what they’ll do”, said one comment spotted on Facebook. This is rebel behaviour, just for the sake of it. This is telling an authority, “Hey, you wanna discipline me? try harder!”

And interestingly, neither of these initiatives are government led. The hawker centre tray return idea was conceived and run by Timbre. In the case of the supermarkets, it was a joint project.

Tell me: what is wrong with returning your own trays? You make it easier and faster for the next person to consume their food. You reduce the incidence of birds and flies from making a disaster out of your waste. You make the job of the cleaning uncle/aunty easier (trust me, there’s always a job for them…don’t worry about them being made redundant). You make the entire living environment more sociable, more pleasant and more hygienic.

And what is wrong with paying more attention to how you’ll throw your waste? Why can’t we pay more attention to crushing the cans, folding the cartons and maximising the trash bag? Must one bag only accumulate a few pieces of trash before you send it down the chute?

In many other countries, people don’t depart with their trash…even freezing biological waste for up to a week before it is being collected. In Japan and Korea, people are very disciplined: sorting out the recyclables and packing those that cannot before discarding them. Many of these countries are required to buy purpose built bags for disposal. Even better, there are also “zero waste” initiatives, but these fall on deaf ears.

Why are we so different?

Why do we need to rebel even when these things are conceived for the betterment of society?

Indeed, this is the very reason why we can’t have good things.



  1. Simple, Singaporeans have no other avenue to vent out on hawker food prices being hiked for no reason, plastic bags are very cheap yet they are going to be charged at 5 to 10 cents?? If they were charge 1 cent, I think there is no issue. If the whole idea is to NOT produce plastic bag rubbish then try a basket loan system just like the trolleys. On the next visit, customers can return the basket and get their $1 back. Our salaries are not going up but prices of necessary goods keep hiking. To whom shall we scream for recourse?

      1. Let me ask u a simple question
        if 2 plates of chicken rice Cost
        Chicken Rice A cost $3 dollars
        Chicken Rice B cost 5 dollars
        Which one will u buy?

    1. What part of reflection on behaviour for the betterment of society is sooo difficult to understand. Sad to see this article related to screams for recourse over a few cents and economic demographics instead of realising the idea and fact that society is going backwards.

      In modern terms, we call it being,



    2. I think it’s a shame… We have lost our “Kampong” attitude of taking care of others and be considerate of others before self. Most things which our parents generation cannot afford is easily obtained now… This the lack of gratitude on how things are made available.

      The increase in price from my own experience of Singaporeans was useful also during the transition phase of our parents generation whereby money should be spent wisely as it’s hard to come by, this increasing the price of things, I.e. plastic bags will help with compliance. Again, with surplus and a generation of getting whatever they want with little to no effort created this “me me me” culture.

      I think what we need to start again is the campaign we used to have (to help teach society social etiquette). Courtesy begins with me campaign.

      How else can we start to teach our children empathy and kindness.

      Just my 2cents


    3. This makes sense because you assume Singaporeans must “vent out” or “scream for recourse” in some way. Sadly, you’re right. Unfortunately, venting never helped anyone. Either accept the changes, or boycott it and do it your own way, but don’t make the problem worse.

  2. Well if you compare to timbre other outlet located near one north circle line station. It has been successful in its initiative.
    The problem is that our older generation of Singaporeans bringing up their children with the sense of entitlement and many uncivilized behavior.

    This is mostly observed in the Chinese people(Not only foreigners but also Singaporeans) where due to the understanding that if you are successful in life or have achieved something in life you are entitled to any actions without any repercussions. Before calling me racist I am a Chinese myself and this behavior is so predominant or even as a general stereotypying.

    We can only try to educate our future children and teach them the values and the mistakes our parents and grandparents made or publicly shame them and their families.

    1. Don’t worry, not only your race. We are privileged so we take advantage of it. People do it for a cause but all we can think of is money money money because you know why.

        1. No one is holding you hostage at gun point. If such small act is considered such a chore to you, why not immigrate else where? Venting for marking up hawker prices? Have you lived in countries where a meal out will set u back a minimum of 10 dollars?

  3. We do have a paternalistic government that regulates many aspects of our public and private lives. We are specialised to be law-abiding citizens and most of us have been brought up to obey without questioning or understanding why certain rules are in place. Incentive-based state initiatives have taught that a course of action is worth pursuing only if it benefits us, and that “bad” behaviour is only undesirable if it comes at a personal cost to us. If we are treated like “babies” and never allowed room to grow beyond that or to develop our own sense of right and wrong and the desire to do what is right on our own, why should there be any surprise or outrage that we, as a society, behave the way we do? This article nitpicks at things that aren’t even the root cause of perceived societal deficits.

  4. There is, of course, another way to look at this. A naked attempt by businesses to shave cost at the expense of consumers. Businesses in Singapore have been known for some very dodgy practices. From the 10% service charge (Is it going to service staff? Hah you wish) to the more felonious business practices represented by one Jover Chew. Our consumer protection compared to other developed nations is a joke.

    The only way you can persuade people that this is not the case is enhanced scrutiny. Have businesses declare their income and the savings from not having a clean up. Put in a monitoring framework to ensure the savings is permanent (not put in a discount to one month and then diam diam raise price) and have resources to police it. If there is going to be a price increase it must be declared and ensure the price raise is due to legitimate rise in business cost.

    1. If you have run a business before, you would know that these initiatives (charging for plastic bags, making people collect their own tray) don’t usually make business sense in term of dollar-and-cent. They may save you a little bit of money, but it’s a very risky move because the backlash is usually quite severe (as these cases have demonstrated). These businesses are willing to take this risk, because they believe in the long term, it’s the right thing to do. They bet that customers will eventually realise that they have done the right thing, and increase customer loyalty as a result.

    2. Service charge is kind of like a compulsory tip, in countries like America they tip and so the basic hourly salary for service sectors can be borderline minimum salary. But tips arent consistent and you can have a bad day where you slave and earn less than you should have so Singapore’s service charge makes sense in the sense that they make sure the service industry earns an hourly wage that is beyond minimal wages at least.

      1. Karita. No it is not a compulsory tip. It does not go to service staff.

        I point you to the IRAS website. The service charge is business discretion and nowhere does it say that it has to be allocated to staff. And I know personally businesses that keep this for themselves.—Beverage/

        It is common for businesses in the hotel or food and beverage industry to impose a service charge on their goods and services provided. IRAS does not interfere with such business decisions.

        1. Nope, let me put it this way, the minimal hourly wage in some states in America for service staff are about two dollars. The reason why it is it not the case in Singapore is because the service charge allows companies to pay stuff more than that on an hourly basis. I used to work in the service industry I know it does not go directly to us, but it does help them to pay me twelve dollars an hour in a country that doesn’t tip. Honestly if you go to a country that does the tip is 10-20% so we are actually saving money. I can’t say the same for gst but it’s definitely wrong to say service charge isn’t helping the service staff. Not everything is a scam.

          1. Then the need for the lack of transparency escapes me. Look, I am probably going to be a skeptic when it comes to local businesses. There are just so many crap practices in singapore. So when businesses come up with something new, one eyebrow will always be raised.

  5. In Korea and Japan and wherever ………. There is no COE, Million dollars ministers, constant MRT break down, High Water tax, ERP and SAF Military Expert Rank, ……..

    So why must we always follow the rest of the world when it benefit the big rich business and government. And when they do something different from the rest of the world to benefit themselves again, they tell us that we can be different.

    1. I think you’re going to far. 10c plastic bag cannot make anyone rich. Eventually, the goal is to encourage people to bring their own bag so that they don’t have to pay for plastic bag.

  6. I’ve been saying for YEARS that we have become a nation of adult children, and I’m old enough to remember when we really were better than that.

    It’s yet another proof of Kant’s observation that when paternalistic, authoritarian Leaders treat their adult subjects as though they were children, inevitably the society that they rule devolves to the point where those subject ACT like very young children, spoiled rotten and seeking the perpetual praise, or hoping to avoid the arbitrary lashj of, their all-powerful God-King with feet of sandy clay.

    On paper, we’re a modern Parliamentary republic with a Constitution that guarantees basic rights, just like every authentic First World country. On paper, the USSR had a Constitution (which influenced India’s, which influenced ours) that guaranteed an exemplary range of human and civic rights, including a framework where any citizen could become as active in governing the country as she cared to.

    We’re not going to be a real country, as opposed to a family-owned private-limited company, until and unless we, individually and collectively, grow up, insist on being treated like adults, and prove that we can ACT like adults. The Party have invested considerable tax dollars (paid by us) and man-decades of effort by scholar-mandarins, into ensuring that we’re no closer to achieving that tomorrow than we were yesterday.

    Make the Pledge real.

  7. Try living in singapore SGD 1000 will make ur cannot be full and cannot die
    Just come to singapore to live for 1 month
    there is a reason Why we have more Foreigners then singaporeans
    Every Action There is a Equal Or opposite Reaction
    USe ur Brain Before writing Anything FFS

  8. Singaporeans have become spoilt, It only takes a few steps to return the tray, Only a few steps to the Garbage bins.Just because they have to pay a deposit meant the Stall owner is making money, so return the tray get back the dollar but make the stall owner suffer by throwing the utensils away. The attitude is make him pay for our inconvenience. Why do we have to pay for plastic bags. Its not why do we have to pay, it if you dont want to pay, bring your own. People just see the word pay, then they get angry. Its BRING YOUR OWN BAG!!! This practice has been done all over the world, Even Some third world countries practice it. Its not the government fault as it always is when people are not happy. It boils down to UPBRINGING, We have become an arrogant society. I travel a lot and have seen behaviour of Singaporeans abroad. Small matter becomes a big issue, they do not bother about others. I might get flamed for this write up, but people open our eyes, look in the mirror. Remember How you act in public stems from how you are brought UP.

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