Jul 28, 2014 Samara Kalk Derby | Wisconsin State Journal

A few years ago, filmmaker Gretta Wing Miller was hired to make a documentary about the Vernon County landfill.

She learned a lot while making “Lessons from a Landfill,” and now volunteers whenever she can with the Sierra Club’s “Recycling Away from Home” project, which provides recycling and waste reduction at Madison’s neighborhood festivals, including AtwoodFest.

“It was eye-opening about how much stuff we throw away and how much of it can’t be recycled,” said Miller, who was volunteering Sunday during the final day of the two-day AtwoodFest.

She also learned about the markets for recycling, which she said change every year.

Just in time for AtwoodFest, the market for plastic beer cups — plentiful at any Near East Side festival — changed in a big way.

The Sierra Club’s Don Ferber, coordinator of the “Recycling Away from Home” project, spoke with one of the festival’s organizers, Steve Sperling, who spoke to city recycling coordinator George Dreckmann, who spoke to his waste hauler and processor, Pellitteri Waste Systems.

“It looks like Pellitteri has a new place that takes their PETE cups,” Dreckmann said, referring to the cups with the No. 1 symbol. “ This is our plan going forward for the rest of the summer.”

He said switching to the No. 1 cups was more expensive, but festival organizers got a good price on them when Kessenich’s, a local company that specializes in commercial food service equipment and supplies, matched a price Ferber found online.

Organizers ordered 50,000 No. 1 cups, 36,000 of which were used at La Fete de Marquette two weeks ago. That left 14,000 cups for AtwoodFest. Originally 30,000 were supposed to go to La Fete, but AtwoodFest had to bring some of its cups to La Fete when they started running low, Sperling said

Meanwhile, the Willy Street Co-op used compostable cups for its Thursday night dinner at La Fete. Compostable cups can’t be put in the backyard composter, but they are made from renewable materials.

Dreckmann said residential recyclers can now begin recycling No. 1 products, such as bottles and food packaging, at home.“Generally speaking it’s going to be yes, especially if it’s the clear material.”

For AtwoodFest, recycling containers had signs posted on them reading “beer cups too!”

Ferber said that even though the beer cups were being recycled, food vendors used whatever types of materials they usually use. Some vendors used recyclable materials, others did not.

The Orton Park Festival, Aug. 21-24, will be a full recycling event, with all of the food vendors in on the act as well, Ferber said. “It will be basically a zero-waste event.”

Dreckmann wishes the festivals would switch to a reusable, refillable heavy-duty plastic cup, but said there doesn’t seem to be any interest.

But he sees it as practical. “You just take the cup, fill it up and bring it back. It’s what happens at every bar in town.”