The Source of Separation

Milly Zantow

Milly Zantow

We must acknowledge the passing of a monumentally important person this month. Milly Zantow, Feb. 13, 1923-Aug. 3, 2014. You probably have never heard of her. Milly, a Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin woman, started plastics recycling as we know it. She happens also to be responsible for the numbered, chasing arrow triangle imprint (1-7) classifying common commercial plastics.

In the late 70’s, Milly had just visited Japan and was taken with how clean the country was. She witnessed first hand their recyclable collection process. Everyday, a different material was set on the curb for Sanitation pick up.

When she returned to the States, she began monitoring a local (filled to bursting) landfill. She realized that the majority of it was plastic. So, she called the local Borden milk factory to find out what they did with their reject bottles. They told her that they were thrown back in and re-blown. Milly had her answer – they were recyclable! Two months short of a two-year Business degree, Milly was visiting the science department at UW-Baraboo to conduct water-weight tests and burn tests on plastic containers.

Milly Zantow at  EZ Recycling Wharehouse

Milly Zantow at EZ Recycling Wharehouse

Next, Milly and her friend, Jenny Ehl, cashed in their life insurance policies for a combined $5000.00 and bought a plastics grinder. Their business was called EZ Recycling – the first of it’s kind. They took all recyclables, glass, metal & plastics. Milly established the first markets for recycled plastics in the country. It was a 6 -7 day job of sorting and hauling. They expanded to 7 townships in and around Sauk County. Milly’s policy paper on recycling plastic was even adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Milly crushing can by hand

Milly crushing cans by hand

Representative Spencer Black credits Zantow as a major contributor to the framing of the 1990 statewide recycling law under then-Gov. Tommy Thompson requiring the recycling of plastic, metal, paper and glass by all state municipalities. The law was considered the most comprehensive state recycling programs in the country at the time.

Milly Zantow, housewife and mother of three, at age 56, started one of the most environmentally significant movements of our lifetime.

Be the change!

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Laura@Laura-e-Kelly.com' Laura says:

    Boy, the power of one determined woman!

  2. japirish@mac.com' JoAnn H says:

    inspiring indeed!

  3. Amazing website, thanks for sharing !!

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