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Student shatters Lake Constance glass ban

The Local · 27 Jul 2012, 15:18

Published: 27 Jul 2012 15:18 GMT+02:00

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Benjamin Wohnhaas, 24, said there was no good reason for the ban – nor the €100 fine for non compliance. He sued Constance city, saying the rules were arbitrary, and a court on Friday said he was right, overturning the ban.

The city authorities banned all glass from parks and the banks of the lake last year, saying it would reduce vandalism, rowdiness and injuries from broken glass.

But Wohnhaas said the Glas verboten sign was a “disproportionate violation of the freedom of the individual.”

He and his lawyer argued too many people had been affected in comparison with the few who had misbehaved. And ultimately, Judge Volker Ellenberger, President of the Administrative Court in Mannheim, agreed.

“In order to prevent potential dangers, many people’s rights were limited,” said the Ellenberger.

The ban was unnecessary, he ruled on Friday, overturning it with immediate effect.

The city authorities did not have enough evidence of bathers being injured by broken glass in the water.

“It’s just not possible to document it,” said Caroline Binkert-Brugger, who represented the City of Constance in the case. Many injuries had been treated by family doctors and had not been registered, leaving the city without hard numbers to back up its case, she said.

“We tried many mild measures, only the ban on glass bottles worked up to now,” she added.

“But that hasn’t been proven,” said Ellenberger, pointing out that mussel shells on the lake bed could have been equally responsible for any injuries.

Story continues below…

In his battle against the ban, Wohnhaas received support not only from the local youth branch of the Green party, but also from local drinks manufacturers worried about the competitive advantage for companies selling their drinks in plastic bottles.

DAPD/DPA/The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:14 July 27, 2012 by franconia
Ellenberger was besoffen when he ruled !
16:30 July 27, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
So the authorities must count how many people actually get injured in order to protect them. Common sense lacking again in Germany. Bets on people suing for not being protected against injury?
17:35 July 27, 2012 by finanzdoktor
@ Berliner fuer alles: I agree with you. Now watch their be injuries and/or damage due to broken glass which results in tort cases against the same institutions that had put the ban in-place.

Also, cannot help but think the real reason behind the ruling is because "local drinks manufacturers worried about the competitive advantage for companies selling their drinks in plastic bottles." Translation: Let the courts protect manufacturers against their competitors, instead of letting the innovate their product to meet market demands/conditions.
04:54 July 28, 2012 by toninikkanen
My take is that only utter morons will break glass bottles while drinking. It's based on the fact that I've been drinking alcohol from glass bottles for about 18 years now and so far I have broken exactly 0 bottles. But as I bicycle around my neighbourhood and hear my tires bust again and again, I have to wonder what is wrong with the rest of humanity that constantly shatters their glass bottles on the streets and roads? I mean, I'm no rocket scientist or athletic mastermind myself and I manage just fine on myself to not break any glass.
06:58 July 28, 2012 by Harry Grouse
This Turkey aint no Hero. Is he going to pick up all thr broken glass and be respinsible for the resulting injuries? NoT
08:37 July 28, 2012 by wood artist
@ Berlin fuer alles I think the point is that taking away freedoms should be done carefully. In short, if a government says "you can't do this" there must be some reasonable and rational reason for the restriction. If there is no concrete evidence of harm, then the freedom should stand.

I don't doubt that some have sustained injuries, and I have no idea what an "excessive number" might be. However, if the city (in this case) can't provide anything beyond "there have been some" it seems unreasonable.

In the US the state of Pennsylvania recently enacted some stringent voter ID laws, supposedly to prevent fraud. However, it was seen by many as an attempt to disenfranchise certain voters. Now, however, the state has admitted that they can't point to a single case of actual voter fraud that this new law would address...so, using the rational basis, the law is restrictive to no purpose, nor to solve any defined problem.

It sounds like the "no glass" rule maybe be close to similar, and apparently the judge agreed.

13:11 July 28, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
As toninikkanen says. You only have to cycle around and see the amount of broken glass on the pavements, cycle lanes to realise how many morons are out there who do not act responsibly with glass bottles. I also prefer to drink from a bottle but if a switch to plastic bottles means streets, pavements, cycle lanes, lakes etc being safer I would gladly make the sacrifice. I do not consider it a major freedom being removed if drinks manufactureres have to switch to plastic in order to sell their products. If society never took notice of dangers we would still be riding motor bikes without helmets, driving without seat-belts and many more safety precautions would never have been made.
14:35 July 29, 2012 by lost_in_swabia
Having grown up on a lake in the Western US now living on Lake Constance, I recieved stitches numerous times from broken glass in my own yard (we were not the first owners of the house) and I can empathize with the city to some degree. But the ruling was far too narrow in scope and only tries to solve a part of what is a more serious problem: littering.

But is it better if people leave PET bottles, aluminum cans and plastic six pack holders on the shoreline and floating in the lake? A ban on glass is entirely disproportional, and it's often the content of said containers that leads to poor decision making to begin with!

The litter problem as a result of picnickers, partiers and others (e.g. fast-food consumers) along the lake and IMHO in most of Europe is a serious problem. I cannot recall how often I have picked up litter along trails that my local friends have walked right by (btw. smokers: cigarette butts are litter!). I remember a time in the US when this was a problem, but it was a long time ago and the change was a result of education and a shift in social norms rather than a ban on packaging materials...

I concede that in a international holiday region like Lake Constance or the Alps, this can be more challenging, since many it is often (though not always) tourists who are major contributors. But a ban on containers, esp. containers that, when used in the right way, can be recycled and actually help combat littering, it not the right way to do it.
13:10 July 30, 2012 by jloweco
Okay, so there's a small number of people who are either being careless with their glass bottles (most likely while intoxicated) or downright nasty and breaking them intentionally. There's an equally small number of people who have been hurt by this glass. It's a problem and the authorities want to do something about it, I get it.

Where I get lost is how anyone thinks banning glass is a good solution. Littering will continue to be an issue, especially so with plastic bottles which, when empty, are quite prone to being blown away. This additional plastic will, in the best scenario, end up in local landfills or recycling plants, but it will also often end up on the lakshore, in the water and in the stomachs of birds and fish in the area. How can this be seen as a solution?

The problem is not with the glass - in fact glass is a fantastic, ecologically friendly material that can be washed and safely reused many times. The problem lies in the behavior of those using it. THAT is where the legislative and law enforcement efforts should be focused...greater monitoring of the actions and behavior of lake visitors, stiffer penalties for littering, public intoxication, noise and disturbing the peace, etc.
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