Raise a glass to Flanders
Some people in this country can be very quick to throw disparaging remarks at our European neighbours, especially now with the fate of the Euro hanging in the balance.Like a sketch out of Harry Enfield, you can just imagine three mates sitting in a pub on a Friday night, sipping on their pints, and putting the world to right.
"Look at the Greeks - how could they get themselves into so much debt?" you can imagine one of them moan.
"What about the Italians?" says a second lad, adding yet another wise crack. "They're just as useless. It's because they change governments every week!"
"Well at least they have a national government, unlike Belgium!" jokes a third, professing his so-called expertise on the finer details of running a country.
True, Belgium may on the surface look like a lost cause in the governmental stakes but wait a minute! Dig deeper and look at what the region of Flanders is doing on waste and it puts this country, with its long-held tradition of democratic stability, to shame.
In Belgium, waste management is organised at a regional rather than federal level. In Flanders, local efforts to drive up recycling levels have had impressive results.
Back in the 1980s, landfill rates for household waste stood at around 50%. They are currently 1%. Not bad for a region in a country where there is no national government to speak of.
How have they done this, you may ask? Well, one crucial element has been a series of highly effective and sustained communication and information campaigns to encourage local people to recycle.
While England can gloat that it has a government, its waste policy is poorly lacking. What's more, there isn't much incentive for people to eschew their consumer lives for something more sustainable. What Flanders has shown on waste reduction is that where there's a will, there's a way.
That's something I'll drink to.Nick Warburton