A court ruling in North Rhine-Westphalia has cleared the way for a nationwide increase in the price of bottled drinks in Germany. A judge in Münster's High Adminstrative Court reversed an earlier decision granting companies in the prosperous German state exemption from a federal-mandated increase in the price of recyclable bottles and cans. Beginning Jan. 1, 2003, companies will have to pay 25 euro cent ($0.25) more for 0.5 liter drink containers and 50 cent more for 1.5 liter containers. Firms in several German states filed suit against the planned increase, agreed on by the German government last April. None got as far as North Rhine Westphalia, which got a court to rule it exempt from the increase. The law still faces a final test in Germany’s Federal Administrative Court, but government officials expect the increase to go into effect as planned.