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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 8 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2123 ..

Glass Milk Bottles

MS FOLLETT (5.43): Mr Speaker, I would like to follow on from the comments that Mr Moore has made about the continuation or otherwise of the selling of milk in recycled glass bottles. Through you, Mr Speaker, I would say to the Minister that what I would like to see is an independent and scientifically reliable study of the merits of glass containers for milk versus other containers. My reason for that is twofold. First of all, Mr Speaker, I believe that we need to examine this matter on the ground of public health. I have certainly seen material that indicates to me that milk in glass containers can deteriorate quite rapidly, particularly if it is left in the sun. We also know from constant anecdotal evidence that it is possible for milk in glass bottles to become contaminated. We have seen that contamination today in the form of shards of glass in the bottom of the bottle. We have also, in the past, seen other forms of contamination. Snails come to mind. Dirt and other things have been found in glass milk bottles in the ACT. So, I would like some reliable evidence to be offered to me about the consumer product safety aspects of various containers for milk.

The other issue that I would like a definitive examination of is the environmental impact of the use of recycled glass bottles versus other forms of containers. Mr Speaker, I am aware that, in terms of the glass containers, there is an enormous amount of energy and resources expended in efforts to keeps those bottles useable and clean. There are, for instance, huge quantities of hot water and detergent used to clean the bottles. There is a huge quantity of electricity used in producing that hot water and that detergent. I think we have to consider whether the environmental argument for glass bottles, which appears to be attractive - I accept that - is as robust as it might be. As I understand it, the bottles are used only about 11 times and are then consigned to the scrap heap. I think we need to know whether that recycling effort is, in fact, better than the use of some other form of container. With modern advances in the use of recyclable materials, I do not believe that it is not possible to produce a cardboard container - or even a plastic container - that is readily recycled. So, I would like to see some sort of environmental audit done on the various forms of containers, and I would like to see the results of that audit.

As a former member of the Milk Authority, Mr Speaker, I am very much aware of people's often-stated fondness and preference for their milk in glass containers. But I can inform the Minister that I have never bought my milk in glass containers. It is for the simple reason that I did not want it sitting outside where anyone or anything could get at it, including dogs, magpies and thieving people. So, Mr Speaker, I think we have to get past the simplistic and perhaps nostalgic arguments that have been put forward for glass containers. There is no doubt in my mind that, if we are to continue with selling milk in glass containers, there is a price that the community will be asked to pay for that, quite apart from the environmental cost. We will clearly need to maintain, or perhaps to acquire, some very sophisticated machinery, and it may well be that the arguments do not hold water - or milk either. If the Minister is looking to make some sort of a constructive input to this whole debate, then I would recommend that kind of public health and environmental audit to him. I, for one, would be very pleased to see the results.

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