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Row breaks out in Tübingen over tax on disposable packaging

Row breaks out in Tübingen over tax on disposable packaging

A row has broken out in Tübingen after the fast food company McDonald's filed a lawsuit against a new tax imposed by the German city on disposable food packaging. 

New tax on disposable packing in Tübingen

Since the beginning of the year, all businesses in Tübingen that provide takeout food - including restaurants, cafes, snack bars, bakeries, butchers, cinemas, gas stations and kiosks - have been required to pay a tax of 50 cents plus VAT on all disposable packaging. The income is being used to offset the approximately 700.000 euros the city has to spend each year to clear the city's rubbish bins and streets. 

The vast majority of businesses in Tübingen have fallen in line, but one big one is not playing ball: McDonald's. The Tübingen branch of the US giant is suing the city administration at the local court in Mannheim, questioning whether the city has the right to collect the tax. 

DUH accuses McDonalds of sabotaging climate protection 

The attempt by McDonald's to avoid the tax has not gone down well in some quarters, with Environmental Action Germany (DUH) particularly outspoken in its criticism. In a statement delivered by DUH’s Managing Director Jürgen Resch, the organisation branded McDonald's as a “saboteur”, arguing that by filing their lawsuit in Tübingen, McDonald's is blocking the urgently overdue switch to environmentally and climate-friendly reusable alternatives. DUH also criticised the company's business conduct, and unwillingness to commit to change for the future of the environment. 

Resch, working alongside Tübingen’s Mayor Boris Palmer (Greens), presented several sustainable packaging designs that McDonald's uses overseas in countries such as the UK and France, arguing that the company has the capacity to switch to recyclable or reusable packaging. 

In response, McDonald's has asked the German government to put forth a uniform national framework, rather than a regional one, as seen in the case of Tübingen. The company makes the argument that by having special laws in certain regions the government stands in the way of a nationally successful and implementable concept, which is why they stand behind the lawsuit filed by the owner of McDonald's Tübingen. 

The owner of the Tübingen branch has said that they agree to be responsible for making a contribution to conserving resources and reducing packaging waste, but they consider the regional packaging tax to be disproportionate, and thus oppose the law.

Emily Proctor

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Emily Proctor

Emily studied International Relations and Chinese, and is now undertaking Master's degree in International Security. She enjoys writing, cooking, and playing piano.

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