There's a national effort to prevent international export of electronic waste containing toxic materials. Robin Schneider is with Texas Campaign for the Environment.
"Well, it's ten times cheaper to ship stuff overseas than it is to recycle it properly here, because there's a lot of lead and other toxic material that has to be handled in a certain way. But in other countries, it's a totally different situation. So these sham recyclers in the U.S. are often being paid to accept the material. So they get very cheap shipping rates and then over there someone pays them them to pick out gold and copper and dump the rest."
Schneider says it's hard to tell if a local recycler will actually handle old computers and other electronics in a responsible manner. There's a 2007 Texas law that requires computer makers to set up recycling options for consumers.
"Any companies selling computers, monitors, laptops must provide free and convenient recycling of their products. But there's no guarantee of that being recycled properly, although I think that the electronics manufacturer's programs are generally much better than if you just take it to just any old company. With say Dell, their brand is at stake, so they have a lot to lose if it's shown that they're shipping our stuff to developing countries."
Twenty-three states have passed e-waste recycling legislation, but Schneider says a federal law would outright ban e-waste exports.