What started as a modest waste collection and disposal company in Chicago transformed into North America’s leading provider of waste collection, recycling, and disposal services. The Waste Managers recounts the creation and transformation of Waste Management, Inc., highlighting the stories of the young and untested talent pool who helped grow the company into what it is today.
One of the key players was Dean Buntrock, a twenty something from rural Columbia, South Dakota. During the mid-1950s, Buntrock unexpectedly began to manage his wife’s family garbage hauling business in Cicero, Illinois. After a dozen years of work, he had assembled the early assets that would become Waste Management Inc. Buntrock had a vision for the company’s future, but he knew he needed resources and investment capital.
Buntrock partnered with Wayne Huizenga, a fledgling waste entrepreneur, and Lawrence Beck, a Chicago-area operator. In a daring step of their own, the group rejected a corporate suitor and took their company public in June of 1971. This single move gave the company the initial capital the founders needed to fund the growth of the company, partner with others of a similar vision, and respond to the growing number of federal and state environmental requirements.
Environmental law and regulations were changing the future of the waste collection and disposal industry, and the founders of Waste Management Inc. understood those changes meant they needed more funds to respond to the new rules. The environment was ripe for industry consolidation, and over the following decades, Waste Management Inc. would consolidate thousands of companies.
The expansion strategy of the company required more than just money. It needed people, and Buntrock had a talent for recruiting bright people and energizing them to achieve goals they thought were beyond their reach. The recruits came from finance and public accounting firms or top engineering schools, and many were too young or inexperienced to understand the difficulty of the challenges before them. However, they were joining a company full of experienced, in-the-field waste operators, and together they formed the corporate backbone and management to propel the business forward and create a model for consolidating an industry.
The Waste Managers includes interviews with company leaders, first-person accounts of acquisition experiences, international adventure, and perseverance in the face of challenges. It is the story of the people who made the company that is one of the most important services the public relies on.