Peter Watts of Big River Milk is ready to give the old plastic bottles the kick - moving to glass bottles.
Peter Watts of Big River Milk is ready to give the old plastic bottles the kick - moving to glass bottles. Adam Hourigan

SUPPORT LOCAL: Big River starting a new moo-vement

BIG River Milk is starting a new movement to ditch plastic and return milk to glass, but first they need the community's help.

While the Southgate dairy has been selling milk in glass bottles for years, the ability to recycle them has been a major hurdle that operations manager Peter Watt and his team have finally overcome.

"We always wanted to be fairly innovative and we kept on getting phone calls from people asking if we could recycle the glass bottles and we kept having to say 'no, we're not allowed'," he said.

"We started working with the Food Authority and asking them that question and constantly getting a 'no' response."

However, Mr Watt said ABC's The War on Waste TV program seemed to inspire a change of heart. "Not long after the show aired, we finally got a 'yes, you can, if you make these changes' and we jumped at the opportunity," he said.

Since getting the green light, Big River Milk has been making major changes to the way it packages, sells and recycles its product.

 

Peter Watts of Big River Milk is ready to give the old plastic bottles the kick - moving to glass bottles.
Peter Watts of Big River Milk is ready to give the old plastic bottles the kick - moving to glass bottles. Adam Hourigan

"Changes include the installation of new cleaning equipment, new 1.9-litre bottles and new delivery trucks to support the weight of the glass," he said.

Consumers can also expect the return of the old-school milkman switching empty flasks for a fresh bottle of the white gold.

"People can enter into a subscription for their milk and decide when they want it," Mr Watt said.

"For instance, if you buy 50 litres of milk, you can use it as you wish; if you want two litres delivered each week, you can do that."

Mr Watt added that a recent collaboration with local food producers meant customers could also enjoy home delivery of fruit, vegetables and eggs.

"Our focus is very much about keeping jobs within the North Coast," he said.

"Before we started, there were 18 people employed. Now, between us and Mother Nature's in Coffs Harbour, there are 43 people employed.

"That kind of success can only come about if we're supported by locals and supporting locals."

And that's where the community comes in.

In order for this initiative to happen, starting in January next year, Mr Watt said the farm needed the support of the regions it served, including the Tweed and Byron Shires, Northern Rivers, Clarence Valley and Coffs Coast.

"It's somewhere around $150,000-$200,000 investment up front to make these changes; we can't really afford that, so we've looked at other options like crowd funding," he said.

Last week, Big River Milk joined forces with international crowdfunding website Indiegogo to help raise the remaining funds needed to turn their business green.

"We simply ask for people to subscribe to our home delivery service at the same price you would pay for your everyday milk," Mr Watt said.

However, there are other ways to support the dairy's 'buy local' business venture, from moo-stache shirts, cheese kits, adopting a calf to a couples-only tour and overnight camp at the farm.

For more information or to take up a delivery subscription, visit their website www.bigrivermilk.com.au or phone 66542120.