Browning-Ferris Industries was founded in 1967, and it was originally known as American Refuse Systems, Incorporated. An accountant by the name of Tom Fatjo, Jr. started the company in Houston, Texas, as a residential neighborhood waste collection service. Within a year, the company expanded its services to include local businesses. A partnership deal between Tom Fatjo and Louis A. Waters resulted in a name change in 1970, and BFI continued acquiring new companies and expanding its operations worldwide.
American Refuse Systems, Incorporated was servicing residential neighborhoods, factories and shopping malls when Tom Fatjo went into partnership with Louis Water, a New York securities brokerage company vice president. Together, they bought a controlling interest of stocks in the publicly traded Browning-Ferris Machinery Company, a heavy equipment leasing and servicing company. After incorporating under a new name, BFI began buying up competitors in the waste management industry. It acquired companies that floundered after new government regulations placed tough restrictions on disposal and incineration of waste materials.
BFI expanded overseas in 1973 when it began operations in Spain. In the 1970s, the company faced legal challenges due to new regulations established by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. The company went through a series of top management changes in the 1980s and early 1990s. The company currently offers services such as disposal of medical waste material and waste-to-energy conversion.