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A sizeable number of US states and Canadian provinces are taking on electronic waste recycling as part of larger green agendas. The main reason governments are doing this is to prevent the release of toxic materials into the environment. According to Californians Against Waste, electronic waste now accounts for about 70% of toxic heavy metals in landfills. A secondary goal is the establishment of a cost-recovery revenue stream for valuable materials extracted from electronics, but the upfront capital investments for recycling programs and operations must first be digested by governments.

Governments generally take one of three legislative approaches:

  • No-cost programs for consumers paid for through general tax revenues.
  • Producer responsibility programs where manufacturers are responsible for the cost of recycling the equipment they produce.
  • Consumer fees or point-of-sale levies that the government or vendors collect from consumers for equipment purchased.

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