Gaming is an often-overlooked source of e-waste. Devices like computers, smartphones, and tablets are more widely used and therefore tend to get the most attention. Yet, gaming consoles and their related devices are also a significant contributor to the global e-waste problem, and the challenges surrounding them are likewise complex. Here’s a closer look at the issue, as well as some potential solutions.
How does gaming generate e-waste?
As with other consumer electronics, gaming consoles contain a long list of components such as gold, copper, lithium, cobalt, zinc, cadmium, and lead. A PS4 alone has 54 different elements, some of which are toxic heavy metals. Extracting and processing these components releases hazardous chemicals, such as arsenic and mercury, that can damage ecosystems. Beyond that, gaming consoles are made with large volumes of plastic. The devices often wind up in landfills, and then infiltrate groundwater systems and pollute surrounding wildlife.
The issue is exacerbated by the fact that new generations of consoles are released every five to ten years. For avid gamers, having the latest device is essential to maximizing the gaming experience. And since there are more than three billion gamers being entertained by these devices each year, the waste is only piling up more.
As with smartphones, developers of gaming devices are guilty of designed obsolescence. In other words, current models of gaming devices are only designed to last so long; older generations of gaming systems won’t support the newest releases of games. This has led to a complex and worsening e-waste issue and an ever-growing carbon footprint within the gaming industry. While there’s no quick-and-easy fix, there are solutions available, but meaningful change will require the involvement of several key parties.
How can the gaming industry fix its e-waste problem?
Fortunately, the gaming industry is well aware of its e-waste problem and is actively working to address it. Several gaming system manufacturers have pledged to minimize their environmental impact through earth-friendly initiatives. In 2019, Microsoft made 825,000 Xbox consoles carbon neutral, which marked the first-ever carbon neutral gaming system. They also promised to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030. Sony is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2040, while Nintendo has also expressed their commitment to a more eco-friendly supply chain.
Organizations such as the U.N.’s Playing for the Planet are calling on gaming console manufacturers to find more sustainable approaches to building their products, including reducing the amount of plastic they use. This is just a start, however. These strategies are aimed at reducing the environmental impact of producing gaming consoles, but issues persist in terms of what happens after they leave the manufacturing facility. To make meaningful progress towards addressing the e-waste issue, the gaming industry as a whole would need to see a major shift.
In particular, switching from a model of designed obsolescence to one of repairable parts and upgrades would be transformational. Getting gamers on board with replacing certain components instead of purchasing entirely new systems every few years would be key to helping the change take place. In the meantime, manufacturers must also focus on phasing out hazardous materials in their consoles and developing effective recycling plans for outdated consoles.
Until gaming becomes greener, you can turn to Quantum to process many of your gaming components safely. See a full list of the old electronics we accept here, or call us at 888-496-8087 to learn more.