Oakland Vietnam War Refugee, Recycling CEO Brings Expertise Back To Homeland April 27, 2015 7:36 PM OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The lives and fortunes of thousands of Vietnamese refugees changed with their exodus from Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War 40 years ago this month. Among those seeking a new start in the U.S., perhaps no refugee embraced the American dream as fiercely as David Duong. Duong, the founder of Oakland-based California Waste Solutions, is one of the most successful Vietnamese businessmen in the East Bay. His story is not quite a rags-to-riches story, however. Duong was born into wealth and lived in the biggest house in Saigon – a seven-story mansion. His father owned a recycling company and the biggest paper mill in South Vietnam. “My father, they used to call him king of trash,” said Duong. The family empire vanished overnight on April 30, 1975 when North Vietnamese soldiers seized all their properties. David, then 15, and his family escaped in a boat with just the clothes on their backs. When the boat began sinking, a nearby Russian ship managed to rescue them. “We (were) so lucky. If they don’t rescue us, we definitely would die,” said Duong. After years at a Philippines refugee camp, the family came to the U.S and landed in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. There were 16 relatives crammed into two studio apartments. 19-yearold David quickly learned the road to success wasn’t paved with gold, but with cardboard. “After school, we would go around 7:00 or 8:00 and collect cardboard until midnight,” he said. It was a job his family did every day for three years. The payoff was their first recycling warehouse in West Oakland. “From this cardboard here, it started our business today.” California Waste Solutions is a multi-million dollar company handling recycling in Oakland and San Jose. It employs 300 people. In 2006, Duong received a call from the communist Vietnamese government, asking him to consider coming back to Vietnam and building on his family’s roots. “My parents always wanted me to go back to help improve the lives of the people there,” he said. Duong went home and invested $150 million in Vietnam Waste Solutions, which manages solid waste collection, landfills, recycling and composting. “Before, our parents had the biggest paper mill in South Vietnam. Now, we have a waste treatment that’s the biggest in the whole country,” said Duong. “This is kind of like the core of our business, moving back from generations,” said son Johnny Duong. “We never moved from the core.” On this 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, David Duong says he’s not bitter about what his family lost. Rather, he’s thankful for the ability to go back, reinvest and help the communities he left. “Saigon is our home,” said Duong. “But our heart is here (in the Bay Area)” Duong acknowledges there are many Vietnamese-Americans who refuse to do business with the communist government. But he said for him, investing in Vietnam was the right thing to do.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Thursday announced new services added to the city’s recycling program that begins on July 1. June 25, 2015 California Waste Solutions CEO, David Duong, Vice President, Kristina Duong and Chief Operations Officer, Joel Corona, joined with other City officials and our Oakland waste management partner, Waste Management of Alameda County, to announce changes to the Oakland Recycles program that includes expanding CWS’ recycling service area to the entire city of Oakland. The ceremony included a display of the new “Clean Air” CNG trucks California Waste Solutions and Waste Management will be using to service Oakland’s neighborhoods. The new trucks will significantly reduce neighborhood air pollution as well as lower truck noise. Starting July 1, Oakland Recycles, in partnership with Waste Management and California Waste Solutions will begin providing the new services to help fulfill the city’s zero waste goals, that are planned to eventually eliminate sending any waste materials from Oakland to landfills. Mayor Schaaf said: “Our consumers can feel great that they are doing their part to help climate change, save the planet, and also make our streets more beautiful.” In his remarks, CWS Chief Operating Officer, Joel Corona noted that California Waste Solutions, as a local company, recruits and hires local residents for quality union jobs who are trained to provide world class recycling services. “ The City Council, the Mayor and the residents of Oakland have enabled our company to grow and thrive in this great City. We pledge, that as we expand our service area to all of Oakland, we will provide great customer service at the lowest cost possible. As well, CWS will continue it’s tradition of reaching out and working with community and neighborhood groups to promote recycling, environmental sustainability and local hiring.” Following the speeches, Mayor Schaff posed with the company leadership in front of one of our gleaming new “Clean Air” CNG trucks.
Oakland’s New Recycling Fleet Large Trucks With Small Environmental Footprints To provide clean and efficient curbside recycling services, California Waste Solutions has purchased an entire fleet of more than 40 CNG (natural gas) trucks to pick up Oakland’s recycling curbside and at local businesses. But CWS didn’t just buy a few trucks off the showroom floor. We had our new trucks designed specifically for Oakland’s neighborhoods. We built our new trucks, “The Oakland Way.” First, we found a company that started in Oakland. The Peterbilt truck company began when a lumber entrepreneur bought Oakland’s Fageol Motors in 1938 to build logging trucks. After selecting Peterbilt, we sent one of our most experienced drivers to the factory to tell the engineers about the special requirements of driving large trucks on Oakland streets. Our streets narrow quickly. We have to watch out for bikers, children and seniors. We have hills and flatlands. We have to make sure that when we hop out of our trucks to make pick ups, the trucks are safe and won’t move, even on the steepest of hills. On top of that, our drivers, most of who live in or come from Oakland, have to work in our trucks every day. Our trucks are their places of work. Their trucks need to be comfortable, efficient, informative high tech and highly functional. It is hard to believe, but an average driver gets in and out of a truck more than 700 times in an average workday. That takes a pounding on the truck and the driver. So we designed our trucks to be Oakland tough. Our trucks are loaded with high tech equipment to enhance safety and efficiency. We have cameras in the rear, on each side and in some cases, in the truck cab. Each truck is equipped with a multi-function camera monitor, two-way radio, security systems and GPS devices that allow us to document service to every location on our routes. Only after the trucks were designed to comply with the special requirements of working positively in Oakland’s neighborhoods did we order more than $6 millions in new trucks to serve our city.