Milly Zantow

Recycling Revolutionary


How do you make history?

When Milly Zantow learned about a problem in her Sauk County community—a landfill closing much earlier than it should—she took action. Seeing for herself that there was too much plastic waste, she thought it should be recycled. At that time, no one was recycling plastics, but Milly figured it out. She went on to come up with the idea for the numbering system to identify plastics for recycling, now used worldwide, and she helped with the writing of Wisconsin’s recycling law, making her a real revolutionary for an important cause.

Meet Milly Zantow

View Transcript: English Spanish

Questions to Consider

Illustration of the geographical shape of the State of Wisconsin with the number 1 superimposed above it

Before learning about the closing of the landfill, Milly had experiences in her life that shaped her attitudes about waste and recycling. What were some of those experiences? How did they make her feel about what was happening at the landfill? What things in your life have made you want to take action in your community?

Illustration of the geographical shape of the State of Wisconsin with the number 2 superimposed above it

Recycling plastics didn’t happen overnight. What were some of the challenges Milly came up against when trying to make it happen? What steps did she take to address those challenges?

Illustration of the geographical shape of the State of Wisconsin with the number 3 superimposed above it

Milly’s dedication to recycling changed not only her community, but her state, and later, the world. What does her story show you about making change? Is there a problem in your community that you want to solve? How might you start trying to find a solution to that problem?

Read On

Illustrated portrait of Milly Zantow

Milly Zantow: Recycling Revolutionary

Get the full story with this biography book. Audio files are available on each page if you’d like to listen along!


Project Credits

Mia Forslund

Mickey Willard of The Brave Union

Brandon Ribordy

Animation Voice Over
Maureen McCollum

Sound Design
Beauxregard Neylon

Audiobook Narration
Aika Zabala

Audiobook Editing
Kerman Eckes

Catie Pfeifer
Vicki Way Kipp

Educator Support Materials
Mia Forslund

John Vieth
Erika Kachama-Nkoy
Tim Schneider

Charles Barrows

Translation Services
University of Wisconsin-Madison Cultural Linguistic Service

Special Thanks
The Stevens and Zantow Families
Elise Moser
Liz Nevers
Liese Dart
Suzanne Litscher and Jane Litscher
Jack Berndt and the Sauk Prairie Area Historical Society
Lauren White and the Ruth Culver Community Library
Katelyn Van Lankvelt and
the Sauk City Public Library

Executive Producer
Megan Monday

Director of Education
Alyssa Tsagong

Director of Television
Jon Miskowski

Story Advisors

Debra Burmeister
Tullar Elementary School
Neenah, WI

Karen Cody and her students
Tower Rock Elementary Prairie du Sac, WI

Pam Dempsey
James C. Wright Middle School
Madison, WI

Dan Halling
Sauk Prairie High School Prairie du Sac, WI

Tracy Haupt and her students
Merrimac Community School
Merrimac, WI

Lisa Husnick
Lodi Elementary School
Lodi, WI

RDell Johnson
Tower Rock Elementary School
Prairie du Sac, WI

Kerri Lintl
Merrimac Community School
Merrimac, WI

Jenna McCann and her students
Merrimac Community School
Merrimac, WI

Elizabeth Melby and her students
Tower Rock Elementary School
Prairie du Sac, WI

Susan Plewa
Gaenslen School
Milwaukee, WI

Diane Sullivan and her students
Sauk Prairie Middle School
Sauk City, WI

Cliff Thompson, Sauk Prairie School District
Prairie du Sac, WI

Jeff Wright, Sauk Prairie School District
Prairie du Sac, WI

Funding provided by

This project was part of Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Sauk Prairie, funded by major support from Greg and Carol Griffin Family, Darlene Ballweg, Culver’s Foundation, and Wollersheim Winery & Distillery, with additional support from Bank of Prairie du Sac, Consumers Cooperative, Sid and Lisa Cook, John and Alice Grady, Jerry and Nancy Kaufman, Richard and Marilyn McFarlane, Milwaukee Valve Company, Ellen Paul, Sauk County UW Extension, Arts and Culture Committee and Wisconsin Arts Board, Schwarz Insurance, Tim and Pat Size, Jim Slattery, Tools for Marketing, Inc., Wyttenbach Meats, the Focus Fund for Wisconsin History supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support from The Timothy William Trout Education Fund, a gift of Monroe and Sandra Trout, the Focus Fund for Education, and Friends of PBS Wisconsin.