Plastics and the Environment

Playing dangerously: The environmental impact of video gaming consoles

Video gaming entertains more than 3 billion gamers a year, globally. Image: Unsplash/Glenn Carstens-Peters

Claire Asher

Freelance science writer, Mongabay

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Mining in Borneo, Indonesia. A new gaming console’s ingredient list includes gold, copper, lead, nickel, zinc, lithium, cobalt and cadmium — the mining and purification of which are associated with huge energy and water usage, as well as environmental harm.
Mining in Borneo, Indonesia. A new gaming console’s ingredient list includes gold, copper, lead, nickel, zinc, lithium, cobalt and cadmium — the mining and purification of which are associated with huge energy and water usage, as well as environmental harm. Image: Mongabay.
A life-cycle assessment of the Sony PlayStation 4 found that production and distribution of a single gaming console emitted 89 kilograms (196 pounds) of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere.
A life-cycle assessment of the Sony PlayStation 4 found that production and distribution of a single gaming console emitted 89 kilograms (196 pounds) of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere. Image: Mongabay.

The Green Gaming Project conducted extensive energy usage tests on 10 different gaming consoles available between 2000 and 2016, and they found that many consoles used more than 100 watts to play a game.
The Green Gaming Project conducted extensive energy usage tests on 10 different gaming consoles available between 2000 and 2016, and they found that many consoles used more than 100 watts to play a game. Image: Mongabay.
While each new generation of gaming consoles sees energy efficiency improvements, simultaneous feature enhancements result in a jump in energy consumption, each new generation also creates a waste problem through designed obsolescence.
While each new generation of gaming consoles sees energy efficiency improvements, simultaneous feature enhancements result in a jump in energy consumption, each new generation also creates a waste problem through designed obsolescence. Image: Mongabay.

To meet the requirements of national and international energy-saving policies, the latest generation of gaming consoles was designed to be extremely efficient when in standby mode, but the problem is that many gamers either don’t know about, or don’t use this feature.
To meet the requirements of national and international energy-saving policies, the latest generation of gaming consoles was designed to be extremely efficient when in standby mode, but the problem is that many gamers either don’t know about, or don’t use this feature. Image: Mongabay.

The Nintendo Switch is a lightweight platform that uses less energy, but it only caters to a specific market.
The Nintendo Switch is a lightweight platform that uses less energy, but it only caters to a specific market. Image: Mongabay.
With many current gaming consoles already offering 4k (ultra HD) graphics, manufacturers are pushing up against the limits of human perception.
With many current gaming consoles already offering 4k (ultra HD) graphics, manufacturers are pushing up against the limits of human perception. Image: Mongabay.

Data centers, like this Google center in Georgia, use huge amounts of energy and require regular hardware updates.
Data centers, like this Google center in Georgia, use huge amounts of energy and require regular hardware updates. Image: Mongabay.
Experts say the best case scenario would be if gaming companies and governments committed to provisioning new renewables to help phase out fossil fuel generation.
Experts say the best case scenario would be if gaming companies and governments committed to provisioning new renewables to help phase out fossil fuel generation. Image: Mongabay.

Fifty million metric tons of e-waste are generated each year.
Fifty million metric tons of e-waste are generated each year. Image: Mongabay.

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Plastics and the EnvironmentManufacturingSupply Chains

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