California Waste Solutions sues city for contract violations, discrimination

The company’s owners say the California city of San Jose's treatment is unique to CWS.

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California Waste Solutions (CWS), the largest recycling hauler in San Jose, California, is suing the city, claiming it profits from contract violations and discriminates against the company because of its owner’s ethnicity.

The Oakland, California-based company is owned by a Vietnamese family and provides recycling services to more than 175,000 single-family homes in San Jose. The company has been contracted with the city since 2002 and says that San Jose, for years, has failed to address the large amount of garbage that ends up in recycling bins. 

As reported by the San Jose Spotlight, the issue—which was documented in city-commissioned studies—results in millions of dollars in additional costs CWS has to shoulder for processing and disposal. According to the suit, when the company complained about the high contamination rates, San Jose officials retaliated, imposing fines and putting the company on “probation.”

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Kristina Duong, co-owner and chief financial officer of CWS, says the city’s treatment is unique to her company. She claims other waste haulers, primarily nonminority-owned businesses, do not face fines or contract-ending threats.

In 2019, the San Jose Spotlight reports the city paid GreenTeam, another recycler in the area, the same rates as CWS. Duong says this is unfair as CWS has to process more contaminated recyclables.

The lawsuit states the city failed to work with the company on education campaigns to reduce contamination in recycling bins and prohibited the hauler from denying service to violators, thus breaking the contract terms. CWS also claims the city threatened to cut ties if it refused to haul contaminated recyclables.

According to the San Jose Spotlight, CWS is asking for $34 million in damages and $14.4 million in restitution. In a letter responding to the hauler’s claims sent last June, City Attorney Nora Frimann told the Spotlight that CWS’ allegations were untimely and without merit. 

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