Matt Power wrote an excellent piece on Computer Recycling in the January 2005 issue of Harper's. I highly recommend reading it.
Here's an excert :
PVC-sheathed wires such as these are collected and burned in
open ditches on the edges of Guiyu, after which the 9 cents’
worth of copper in each is collected and sold. In the process, the
burning plastic releases dioxins and furans, two of the world’s most
carcinogenic substances, into the air. Most of the burning is
done at night, as the Chinese government banned import of ewaste
in 2000. This has not dented the practice, though. Customs
inspectors are well-lubricated by e-waste brokers, who themselves
are amply compensated at both ends: they are paid in
America to “recycle” the computers—$10 to $30 per machine,
on average—and also sell them upon reaching China. As one broker
told the Washington Post last year, “I could care less where they
go. My job is to make money.” The workers of Guiyu, meanwhile,
are given an untenable choice between poverty and poison.