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Mildred Zantow: Recycling Pioneer

Wisconsin State Journal

Mildred Zantow: Recycling Pioneer

Anyone who has ever recycled a plastic container in the United States can thank Milly Zantow for making it possible.

The environmental pioneer, inspired by Japan’s comprehensive recycling programs, worked to create a similar system in her Wisconsin home. Early U.S. recycling programs skipped the tricky-to-sort material, but thanks to Zantow, it’s now easy to toss a water bottle into a blue bin and rest assured that it will make its way to a recycling center.

It took years for Zantow’s first efforts to start taking hold nationwide, but before her death in 2014, she was able to see the positive results of her work.


Read more about the life and legacy of Mildred Zantow:

Recycling pioneer Zantow to receive award

Zantow founded the E-Z Recycling Center in 1979 in Sauk County. She and a friend, Jenny Ehl, cashed in their life insurance policies to buy a commercial plastics grinder for $5,000, and started the center that some believe was the first of its kind in the country. 

Determined, she helped launch recycling revolution

"We may not know exactly what the little numbers inside the recycling triangles on plastic containers mean, but most Americans have probably taken them for granted for 20 years. Thank Milly Zantow for that."

The woman you've never heard of who changed our world

You know the little triangle symbols on plastics, with the numbers (1-7) inside, that tell you how to recycle?  That's the "plastic identification code."  We all know it, and we think it's been there forever.  It hasn't.  It began in the late 1970s, and it all goes back to a very sweet lady, a neighbor of mine, Milly.