With a mission to preserve the history that shaped today’s waste industry, this unique museum aims to inspire and advance the knowledge of this dynamic profession. Developed by Anthony Ricchio, a lifelong industry professional, he talks about the goals, his future plans and the importance of showing just how far this industry has come.

Give some background on your museum: I opened the doors on May 28, 2023, in the city of Oelwein, IA, which is a great location to major metropolitan areas—four hours from Chicago and Minneapolis, two hours from Des Moines, and an hour from Cedar Rapids. While it is open Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 4, we do have appointment availability for anyone who wants to visit during the week. It is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the summer months we want to keep it open more since people are able to visit more frequently. I am in cooperation with the Hub City Heritage, so the Rail Museum allowed me to use a room in their building. The nice thing about this is that we share the responsibilities of doing tours, so we have someone that can give a tour when I am not there. We also have one person on the museum board who is retired who can show visitors around as well. If we get more funding, we can hire a person to be there more days, but we are in step one of my plans. I eventually want to a have a temperature-controlled building where we can be open all year long.


Photos courtesy of Anthony Ricchio.

How did it come into development? When I started the idea of doing the museum, I had been collecting waste and recycling industry items for 40 years. When I was a kid, my parents were in the garbage business, and I used to see all these cool brochures come in and all these different things my dad would acquire. Back then, there was no Internet, so sales reps came to your door every week because it was a very competitive time for equipment, so I started keeping the sales materials. I also had a collection of more than 500 phone books, and I wanted them because I loved the garbage truck ads. When I moved, I ended up just tearing out the ads because it was too much to move all those phone books, but I still have those ads to this day from the 1950s through the 1980s. It is a lost art. I can tell a story about every piece I have in my museum—from the clothing and decals to the trucks and pictures. Every piece is accounted for in who gave it to me, etc. When we were younger, my friend and I used to drive to garbage truck companies and take pictures of their vehicles, so acquired quite a collection of photos between the both of us as well.

Years ago, I had talked to the Rail Museum Board about using one of their rooms for my Garbage Museum. When they inquired as to why we needed it, I said because there is not one like it anywhere, so they agreed. However, when I was ready to come back and put it together, many of those original Rail Museum board members had passed away, but I was still able to pick a room. It took me a good month to get the room set. up. It was an overwhelming task because I was the only one to do it and I was working. Now it is finished, and my focus is to do more online and Facebook promotion. My ultimate goal is to eventually make this into a traveling museum and have a spokesperson present the some of the material.

I am currently in the process of trying to get a garbage truck that was used in the movie Kill the Irishman to show as well. It is a cabover Ford with a Leach body and the owner and I are strategizing how to get the truck to Iowa. I am currently working with partners to get the truck fixed up so we can drive it. I want to eventually put it in parades, local shows, vintage videos, etc. I have worked for a lot of garbage companies all my life, but to own one to use for specific reasons, it would be unique. I want to set that bar and be at that next level as a non-profit group, showcasing a garbage truck like no one ever has.

What kind of unique items can visitors find at the museum?: My oldest item is a Groot Industries ceramic plate. About 50 years ago, in Chicago (IL), every garbage hauler was required by the city to put a plate on the buildings they serviced indicating who picked up the garbage. I had a person give one to me who worked for Republic. It is my most unique piece in the collection because these plates are hard to find and the company ultimately sold to Waste Connections in 2017. I also have ash hauling cans from 1924; they were at our post office and they were going to throw them away, so I ended taking all three of them.
We do accept donation of items as well. I have had a few people send me their unique items. If I end up with duplicates, we will use it in an expansion project. I am passionate about focusing on the history and the companies that built the industry. It is a lost art, and I am already getting a lot of feedback on this. In the future, I would also like to use it more for educational purposes, such as talking about current trends (like EV trucks), teaching about landfills, recycling, and the whole process. I am building a replica city that shows what happens after the trash is picked up—going to a recycling center, transfer station, C&D, etc. I have it all laid out.

How would you expand this into a traveling exhibit?: We would reach out to some non-profit groups in a specific market and see if they would like to host it. Then, we would see if there would be equipment or waste companies that would want to sponsor it. We want to make it specifically targeted for the waste and recycling history of their area, so it opens the door to advertising with other companies in the industry. Each city will have a sponsor so this will help dealers, haulers, local business, manufacturers, etc. to advertise. It would become a special event, where it can grow and we can build partnerships with key non-profits, etc. We would bring some key items from the museum that people have never seen before and then add in a slide show and in-depth presentation as to what people can see at the main museum. We would also have a nice book of the museum and the items that people can see there. I think there is a void in this field for this type of showcase. This is one of the things that museums need to start looking at because it is hard for people to travel when they work, especially in this industry. My goal is to have this off the ground within two years. One of my board members, Joe Stefanelli, is working with me on this. His grandfather was the original owner of Sunset Scavenger in San Francisco, which became NorCal and then Recology. He might be my spokesperson to take the show on the road. The cities we would focus on first would most likely be Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, and other key destination cities. Local companies are welcome to bring their items they want to show off as well.


Why do you think it is important to tell the history of this industry and how this museum can help do this? There are two main ways the museum can do this: 1) To teach people how the industry began and how it evolved, so you show off the different eras. Many of the people that grew up with their grandparents’ and parents’ companies, they saw the other side of the business—the operations, regulations that changed the industry, how the corporations changed the industry, and how the manufacturers changed the industry. When you change something in the industry, it changes everything from the customers on up.

Plus, 2) It educates the guys that want to get into the business. They need to know how it was done back in the day and look at what they have now. Back then it was all rear loaders, and everything was hand thrown in the back of the truck. Now, you have automated trucks. There is a mentality where everything is all automated, but that is not necessarily the case. There are still markets where they are picking stuff up at the curb. The guys that are in the industry now need to have a greater appreciation and respect for the ones that built and transitioned the industry to where it is now. We are losing that. With all the corporate mergers, you have people that are starting their own companies again. They must look at how to get into the business the right way. They need to talk to mentors in the business who can help guide them.

What are your next steps?: I want to make this museum really interactive so I can have it on the website, Facebook, etc., where people can watch presentations. I used to do Facebook live videos and I would do a presentation on what was going on at the time (mergers, driver safety), so there is a lot of stuff like that you can incorporate into the museum as well. I built my organization around key people that have knowledge for it to be successful. They have connections and can reach out to the right people. The more people who get involved, the more variety you have. We need to bring back the nostalgia and the vintage. It is definitely worth it. | WA


Get to Know Anthony Ricchio

“My parents owned a garbage business, Ricchio Sanitation, so I grew up in the business. They ultimately sold it to the burgundy Waste Management in 1995. While I was working with my parents, I started a recycling service in my town of Oelwein. I would pick up recycling on Sunday mornings at the retirement home that my grandmother lived in and they paid me per bag. When I got older, I got a moped and started to pick up garbage and recycling. I then used a car to haul recycling and then I purchased a pickup when it grew more. The company was called Anthony Ricchio recycling. When my parents sold their business in 1995, Waste Management got me a small garbage truck so I could continue with the recycling pickups, but after a couple of years it wasn’t making any money, so they dissolved it. At that time (from 1987 to 1997), I went to work for Waste Management as a driver and was there until 2013, ran garbage guru to a very large replica truck diecast business for various waste companies and now work for Heil as a Demonstration Specialist.

I have seen everything! All the garbage trucks were stick shifts and had no air conditioning. When my parents were in the business, we had no route sheets, no tablets, no cellphones, no pagers; you had to learn everything out of a route book or a phonebook and a map. We had to learn the areas and make notes about landmarks and what to look for. When we got pagers, we had to go to the pay phone and call the office, and they would give you the additional pickup(s); then we got two-way radios. Now it is all tablets and computers. I still have my original route sheets and plot books. We have come a long way.”



Board Members

John Curotto: President of Curotto-Can. Former Wastec now NWSMA board member and former DCA board
member. He is an NWRA Hall of Famer and has a lot of knowledge on the hauling and manufacturing side. He is also part of the California Coalition.

Don Ross: Chairman of the National Waste and Recycling Association and Chief Sales Officer with New Way Trucks. A 36+ year industry leader with collection, post-collection, consulting, and manufacturing experience including many years at WM.

Jeffery Anderson: As part of the Des Moines, IA area, his father was one of the first guys to invest in New Way Manufacturing, which is now Scranton Manufacturing. He also worked for many years with Waste Management in Des Moines.

Ray Diello: Works for Roselle Carting in New Jersey. He has a lot of driver and management skills. He knows the market from New York to New Jersey.

Josh Erickson: Grew up in the business. He and I worked together in the business for Waste Management and and drove around to take pictures of companies all over Iowa back in mid-1990s. No phones, just old-fashioned cameras. He is now a manager at ABC Disposal in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Brian Flood: Chief Executive Officer at SBC Waste Solutions in Chicago. He has a lot of connections in that area and knows its history.

Zachary Geroux: Garbage truck historian. He has a lot of knowledge on the manufacturing side. Wrote the “Vintage History Corner” series for Waste Advantage Magazine from 2015 – 2017.

Joe Stefanelli: The last of the generation of real “Can Carriers”, Joe started packing garbage in San Francisco when he was 15 in 1975 for Sunset Scavenger Co. His father, Leonard Stefanelli, came off the garbage truck to become President of Sunset Scavenger Co in 1965 and is largely responsible for building the company that today is known as Recology. Joe’s great grandfather, Emilio Rattaro, founded Sunset Scavenger of San Francisco with a horse and a wagon in 1916. Joe has since worked in sales and acquisitions with companies such as Waste Management, BFI, and Republic Services

Andrew Keratzides: Regional Sales Rep for Heil and has a lot of ties with garbage industry in Los Angeles and San

Craig Thomas: Key Account and Region Manager at Heil in St. Louis. Craig started working at his father’s Heil dealership in St. Louis in early 1970s and has more than 50 years of experience in the industry. He also has Canada connections.

Cory Metcalf: Worked for BFI and went through several transitions and mergers. Ran his own company called Vintage Waste, then sold it to Randy’s Sanitation. Very knowledgeable in the business.

Kirk Goode: With more than 40 years of experience in the waste management industry, Kirk is a respected entrepreneur. As the owner of U.S. Refuse in Maryland, he has led the company to success, providing reliable waste services with a focus on environmental sustainability. Kirk’s expertise extends to real estate, where he has built a diverse portfolio. He also plays a crucial role in managing special projects for his brother, Willie K. Goode. Outside of work, Kirk enjoys fishing as a means of relaxation and connection with nature. With his extensive experience and passion, Kirk continues to make a lasting impact in the waste management and real estate industries.


For more information, contact Anthony Ricchio at (319) 509-0510.