“We’re considering it,” Berlin’s Social Democrat Environment Minister Michael Müller told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. His party is the leading coalition partner with the conservative Christian Democratic Union ruling the city state.
“The special fee would mean those who cause the litter, like the operators of coffee shops and consumers would pay the cleaning costs,” said Michael Arndt, chairman of the SPD’s local branch, which made the proposal. The money would be directed straight to Berlin’s state rubbish removal service, the BSR.
Arndt also said that discounts for customers who bring their own cups to coffee shops would be a possibility. “What we definitely don’t want is for the bins on the streets to get bigger and bigger, because the BSR’s bins keep overflowing,” he said.
The proposal has been greeted by the BSR. “If such a fee were allowed, it would be a good opportunity to keep congested areas clean,” BSR spokesman Thomas Klöckner told the Berliner Morgenpost.
But the proposal might not be so easy to impose. Several Berlin district councils have tried to impose some kind of local “trash tax” in the past, only to be thwarted by the courts, who ruled that any such fee would have to benefit those paying it.
A similar scheme is being considered in Munich and a packaging tax was successfully imposed on fast food stands in the central German town of Kassel in the mid-1990s, imposing an extra fee on each paper plate and plastic fork. Around 50 other towns then followed Kassel’s example, until the fee was overturned in the courts in 1998.