September 24, 2023

Federal Administrative Court clears the way for municipal reusable protection: German environmental aid calls on all municipalities to take action against the flood of waste with a municipal one-way packaging tax

The German Environmental Aid (DUH) is calling on all cities and municipalities to introduce a one-way packaging tax based on the Tübingen model before the end of this year. To this end, the DUH today submitted formal applications in the 302 largest German cities. The DUH is thus igniting a second stage as part of its “Plastic-free Cities” campaign and showing the city administrations responsible for implementation, with confirmation from the highest court, how they can waive legally compliant municipal one-way taxes for fast food and to-go food packaging. The aim is to avoid single-use plastic waste and to protect the climate and resources. Since 2020, the DUH has been calling for the introduction of a municipal packaging tax as a central measure of its “Plastic-free Cities” initiative. Due to the lawsuit by McDonald’s against the one-way packaging tax implemented by the city of Tübingen, there has been legal uncertainty, which has now finally given way to a clear decision: municipal one-way packaging taxes to avoid waste are permissible.

This is what the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig decided on May 24, dismissing the lawsuit filed by a franchisee of the McDonald’s fast-food group against the city of Tübingen. This means that cities and municipalities now have one of the most effective measures against unnecessary disposable packaging, as the city of Tübingen has proven: since the packaging tax was introduced on January 1, 2022, the littering of public spaces there has decreased significantly.

DUH Federal Managing Director Barbara Metz : “The intimidating tactics of the fast-food giant McDonald’s against courageous local politics did not work. This is a great success – but once again the courts had to put a stop to the irresponsible business model of large corporations because Environment Minister Steffi Lemke failed to do so. We are now calling on all cities and municipalities to act quickly against the flood of waste with their own taxes on takeaway packaging. The first cities such as Mönchengladbach, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Stolberg have already announced that they will examine this. Our current applications to the 302 largest cities in Germany give the emphasis, but are only the beginning! In the coming weeks and months, we will pool all our strengths and create pressure so that the Federal Environment Minister finally gets climate-friendly reusable systems on the road across Germany.”

Nationwide regulations such as the obligation to offer reusable packaging that has been in force since January 1, 2023 for the catering industry have not yet brought about the urgently needed switch to reusable packaging because they only stipulate an offer, but not the use or incentives of reusable packaging. A local consumption tax on to-go packaging, on the other hand, provides direct financial incentives for the catering trade and consumers to seriously advertise reusable alternatives and use them on a broad basis.

“In order to counteract the single-use waste crisis, the cities and communities must lend a hand. Therefore, the judgment of the Federal Administrative Court is a breakthrough. But it is not a permanent solution that municipalities have to go beyond national guidelines because they are too weak. In order to curb the flood of waste everywhere, we need a nationwide regulation to make disposable packaging for drinks and food more expensive. We are therefore demanding from Environment Minister Steffi Lemke a nationwide one-way tax on to-go packaging of at least 20 cents and a one-way ban on on-site consumption based on the French model,” says DUH Head of Circular Economy Thomas Fischer .

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