With only 90,000 residents and known for its green reputation, the tiny German town of Tübingen was caught in a litigation process after McDonald’s sued the local council over a packaging tax.
1. McDonald’s wins litigation process
With the imposition of a new packaging tax at the beginning of 2022, the city upgraded its green status even further. It was in February 2022 that the local council brought in a new tax on takeaway food packaging, triggering the town’s only McDonalds to enact a lawsuit, which it ended up winning.
An Administrative Court in Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg, ruled that the city’s tax on takeaway packaging was invalid. The law had stipulated that the McDonald’s would have to pay 50 cents for each disposable plate or cup given out, and 20 cents per piece of disposable cutlery. The international fast-food company argued that this was a disproportionate measure and that to implement it regionally would be unfair.
The city claimed that the revenues from this tax would help paying the costs associated with waste disposal. Despite losing in court against McDonald’s, Tübingen can still appeal against the decision. In the meantime, the initial law has been passed by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, with locals and business sharing positive outcomes.
2. Less packaging waste
Despite the resistance from the McDonald’s, the tax was welcomed by residents and business across Tübingen who have adapted based on the principle that non-production is better than needing to worry with recycling or disposing packaging waste.
“The tax is already off to an encouraging start: the first few weeks resulted in up to 15% less waste in the city’s rubbish bins. The number is only set to rise, as more people get in the habit of bringing their own cutlery and restaurants start providing reusable dishes,” said Srishti Chaudhary, a freelancer for BBC who lives in the city where “veganism and environmental friendliness are the default setting.”
3. Green city
Near Stuttgart, Tübingen is considered a very environmentally conscious town, with more bikes than Copenhagen and free buses at night and weekends. Tübingen spends three times as much per capita on bicycle infrastructure as Copenhagen, Boris Palmer, the city’s mayor told Chaudhary.
Talking about the legitimacy of raising such a tax, which will ultimately push the city towards greater sustainability, Palmer said: “We believe that a city has the right to frame such a tax, and then even a big company has to accept that. I can’t believe why an international company can’t switch to reusables if every small business can do that.”