SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California led but no one followed.

In the five-plus years since California launched its government-run e-waste recycling program, all 22 other states to craft e-waste laws have chosen the opposite approach: making industry responsible for recycling its debris.

They have done so for many reasons, from easing the burden on consumers — who fund the California program through fees tacked on to their electronic purchases — to sending a signal to industry.

“When manufacturers pay for recycling, it provides motivation to design products” easier to recycle, said Jay Shepard, a policy adviser in Washington state, which began its program in 2009.

Such an approach nearly became law in California, too — until industry opposition killed it.

Among its backers was former California Gov. Gray Davis, who vetoed the first e-waste bill to hit his desk, in 2002. “Building a state bureaucracy is not the best solution for managing electronic waste,” Davis wrote in his veto message. “We should compel industry to solve this problem.”

Emboldened by the remarks, the bill’s supporters rewrote it to include a producer responsibility option. But powerful tech firms balked, led by television manufacturers, and the sponsors settled for the art of the possible.

The contrast between California’s system and Washington’s program is stark.

In California, dozens of state employees manage everything from e-waste claims to financial audits to collecting fees.

Washington’s program is staffed by three state workers, funded by industry; most of the work, from paying recyclers to managing e-waste collectors, is carried out by a quasi-governmental group staffed and paid for by industry.

“We don’t have to audit the books and collect the fees,” Shepard said. “We don’t have to do a lot of things that California has to do.”

California consumers pay for the program through an $8 to $25 fee assessed on new monitors and TVs; in Washington, there is no such charge.

“The Legislature wanted to make sure citizens would not be paying for this material to be recycled,” said Miles Kuntz, e-waste program manager for Washington’s Department of Ecology. “That was one of the key things: no tax, no fee.”

Kuntz said he and others are glad California was able to break the barrier by launching the nation’s first electronics recycling program.

“But the method that was used obviously wasn’t very popular,” Kuntz said. “Somebody figured out a better way.”