Computer equipment contains some pretty toxic materials, including lead, cadmium, mercury, and PVC plastics. Over 70% of the heavy metals in landfills come from electronic equipment. Additionally, 60% of electronic equipment that is 'thrown out' doesn't make it to the landfills; instead it is shipped to other countries where there is often less money and resources to dispose of it properly. (For more, see Ethics and Electronic Waste.)

To address this problem, many states including Texas now have computer equipment recycling laws. Texas requires manufacturers who sell new computer equipment in Texas to provide a program for collecting and recycling their consumers' used computer equipment. A manufacturer must submit a compliant notification to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to be added to the approved list of equipment manufacturers. Through this program, which has been in effect since Sept. 1, 2008, each manufacturer is responsible for its own brand of equipment.

In 2010, manufacturers collected about 24 million pounds of equipment in Texas. However, according to Texas Campaign for Environment, 90% of that was collected by four manufacturers--Dell, Samsung, Altex and Sony. While very commendable, this left a remaining 8% collected by 38 other manufacturers, and nothing was collected by another 36. TCE believes that four companies shouldn't carry the all the weight and that the Texas Legislature should pass additional rules that would pressure other manufacturers to recycle. Click here to learn about their Reboot Recycling e-petition.

If you have equipment to dispose and you can't resell it or freecycle it, check with your city's electronic recycling program. You can find City of Dallas locations here. And when you gather up your equipment, keep in mind that 'computer equipment' means desktop/laptop computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse. It doesn't not include printers, scanners, card readers, etc.

Finally, if you're familiar with Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff, you might enjoy her take on The Story of Electronics.