It seemed a perfect symmetry: California, the world’s high-tech capital, would lead the way in recycling the debris of our digital revolution.
But five years after its launch, the state government-run electronic waste program stands out not as a model of the green innovation for which California is famous but as an example of good intentions gone awry.
By paying more than $320 million to collect and recycle computer monitors and televisions, the state has built a magnet for fraud totaling tens of millions of dollars, including illegal material smuggled in from out of state.
“I don’t think anybody could have forecast the greed that has poisoned the program,” said Bob Erie, chief executive officer of E-World Recyclers north of San Diego and once an enthusiastic supporter of the state effort.
None of the many states that followed California took on e-waste recycling as a government program; instead they made industry responsible for its own waste.