Việt Nam-born bidder wins billion-dollar contract in U.S.

California Waste Solutions (CWS) has won a decisive campaign against its rival, Waste Management Inc., the largest waste treatment company in the U.S.

The prize is a package worth US$2.7 billion, which allows CWS to manage waste collection and disposal for the Californian city of Oakland for 20 years.

The Saigon Times interviewed CWS General Director David Dương on his winning of this package as well as implementation of projects in Việt Nam.

DavidMr David Dương, general director of California Waste Solutions

Could you elaborate on this US$2.7-billion package?

How long did it take for you to win it?

We’re very glad that seven out of eight members of the Oakland City Council voted for CWS as the entity undertaking waste collection and disposal for the city, where we are just the minority, much smaller than our rival, Waste Management, a company with branches in all 50 states of the U.S. as well as many countries around the world.

CWS was chosen in part because we quoted a more competitive bid price.

Another important part is that we will create jobs for people living in this city.

This is a package with the greatest value since I entered the waste management industry, starting with the smallest job, namely collection and recycling of household scraps.

This win is instills great pride of the Vietnamese community living in America.

However, challenges are down the road when this package is implemented in July next year.

CWS is working as a waste collector in the city.

What will CWS do in the coming time?

CWS signed a contract to collect waste for recycling in the city of Oakland in 1992, which will expire in the middle of next year.

That is why there was bid invitation for the new contract.

The workload will become much larger, because in addition to the existing job of collecting recyclable waste, CWS will also undertake three more jobs, namely collecting garbage, collecting green waste, making organic fertilizer and compost.

Previously, Waste Management was in charge of garbage and green waste collection for the whole city, and waste treatment for half of the city.

Now, this package allows CWS to perform all waste services for Oakland which had previously been performed by Waste Management for over 60 years if you include Oakland Scavenger which WMI purchased in the 1980’s.

Could you tell us about the business of your company in the U.S. when it has been reported that CWS is boosting investment in waste management?

We are developing two new plants in California, a waste treatment and renewable power plant in Oakland City with a total investment of some US$130 million and a recyclable waste sorting facility in the city of Stockton estimated at US$30 million.

CWS is thriving as our business is constantly expanding.

Our work force’s size has surpassed 300, mostly ethnic Vietnamese.

CWS may not be as big as some of its rivals.

However, regarding professional waste management, we are widely known.

In 2013, Waste Age, a U.S. journal of environment, ranked CWS 31st among the 100 waste management companies in the U.S.

The key to success lies in the passion for the career.

With waste disposal and recycling, in addition to efforts to overcome difficulties, we must be constantly looking for new technologies to improve our competitiveness in the industry.

You’ve just talked about passion.

How did the passion for waste treatment develop?

What has turned you from a scrap collector to the winner of a billion-dollar package?

My family has a tradition of making papers and buying scraps for recycling.

My father was dubbed the “the king of scrap” in Sài Gòn before [Việt Nam’s] reunification.

He was the one who taught me a philosophy of life, which is:

“No career is inferior, and success only comes to those who work hard.”

Nevertheless, the passion for waste disposal and recycling had not awoken in me when I was young.

Like other young people, I fancied other glittering careers.

But my English and other skills did not allow me to find a more decent job in this competitive American society.

In the first years of settling in San Francisco, my family members made a living by collecting scraps, sorting and selling them to recycling plants.

Eventually, our determined efforts paid off with garbage collection contracts.

How about your business in Việt Nam?

Dozens of years in practice in the U.S. has made me realize that the waste treatment and scrap recycling industry could generate big business to the U.S. economy.

It requires huge investments and creates jobs by the thousand.

I returned home and established Việt Nam Waste Solutions (VWS) as the country was calling on overseas Vietnamese to return home.

Furthermore, the Hồ Chí Minh City government is looking for investment in environmental sanitation from the private sector.

Đa Phước Integrated Waste Management Facility in Hồ Chí Minh City’s Bình Chánh District marked my first investment in Việt Nam.

The first phase of this project is a landfill covering approximately 30.6 hectares, designed with a daily capacity of 10,000 tons of waste, and is now handling 3,000 tons per day for HCMC and about 20 tons for Long An.

Đa Phước Integrated Waste Management Facility will receive an additional of 2,000 tons per day transferred from Phước Hiệp dumpsite in Củ Chi.

In this complex there is a solid waste recycling facility with a line for sorting and separating materials for recycling.

The plant has the capacity to process about 500 tons of waste with a similar design to that of the company in the U.S.

Also, in this project, VWS is piloting a compost production plant with a capacity of more than 100 tons a day.

Initially, we pledged to pour US$90 million, but in fact we have injected nearly US$150 million into Đa Phước Integrated Waste Management Facility.

We also expanded operations to Long An with the second project called Green Technology Park covering 1,760 hectares.

The project is capable of handling all types of waste, from domestic waste, hazardous waste, medical waste, industrial waste, electronic waste, septic tanks, contaminated sewage sludge to wastewater and old tires.

The new project also consists of a compost production facility with a large capacity and a landfill producing methane for power generation.

This project has the total capacity starting at 20,000 tons per day, meeting the demand for waste disposal of the entire southern key economic region, including Hồ Chí Minh City, Đồng Nai, Bình Dương, Bình Phước, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Tây Ninh, Long An and Tiền Giang.

Of these, Hồ Chí Minh City is home to the largest domestic waste volume, accounting for more than half of the total amount of waste in the whole region.

Given these two large-scale projects, what are the sources of waste for their operation because Đa Phước is now only working at one-third of its capacity?

According to the research data, the volume of solid waste generated in the southern key economic region is around 10,000 tons a day, including 6,500 tons in Hồ Chí Minh City, plus about 11,000 tons of industrial waste per day.

It is forecast that the volume of domestic solid waste in the whole region will reach 20,000 tons per day in 2020, of which almost 10,000 tons is from Hồ Chí Minh City, not including industrial waste with almost the same volume.

Given the processing capacities of the projects with a life span of 75-100 years and the increasing larger amount of garbage in the whole region, we’ll be working full time for generations to come.

The remaining problem is how to make waste collection effective.

When returning to Việt Nam, you said you were joining efforts to draw a picture of the environment.

What is this picture like now?

I’m pleased as we have tried our best and the results are so far encouraging.

At first, people did not know all about us because they did not quite understand the complex business of waste disposal.

Now the picture is taking shape.

All visitors to our projects are welcome, the knowledge of which will help them better understand the Green Technology Park in Long An.

By PHẠM LÊ

Source: The Saigon Times

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