Toxic Consoles

Posted on October 1, 2010

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In Greenpeace’s May 2010 edition in Guide to Greener Electronics, the organization ranked the top 18 manufacturers “of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.”  Who will be the first to turn over a greener leaf?

“It certainly won’t be Nintendo,” an article on CNN stated.

Nintendo came in dead last with a score of 1.8 out of 10. Microsoft’s score of 3.3 placed it at 16th.  Tying for 6th place (and listed as 7th) is Sony with a score of 4.9

Owch.  So the companies overall didn’t fare so well in Greenpeace’s eyes.  What about their consoles?

In their report, Playing Dirty, “hazardous chemicals and materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalates, beryllium and bromine indicative of brominated flame retardants (BFRs)” were found in the consoles.  Not all was woe: “the tests also showed that each manufacturer had avoided or reduced uses of individual hazardous substances in certain materials within their consoles.” (Game Consoles: No Consolation)

When the systems were ranked against each other in individual categories in their Clash of the Consoles review, the results mirrored that of the companies’.

The categories they were rated on included “toxic use,” “toxic policy,” “recycling credits” and “energy use.”

The Wii had the lowest energy cost out of all three systems, using only about 15 watts, but it scored no points in the other three categories. (According to NintendoWorldReport, this is where Greenpeace “double-talks” Nintendo by scoring the company with a 1.8.)

The Xbox 360 Elite came second in its energy use with 97 watts, and received full points on their toxic policy, but failed to impress Greenpeace in the other two categories.

The PS3 uses the most energy at 128 watts while also failing to score any points in “toxic use.”  In “toxic policy” and “recycling credits,” the PS3 scored high 6’s.

This doesn’t mean that our consoles are going to kill us-yet.  When this generation of gaming systems becomes obsolete, a majority of them will contribute to e-waste.  As mentioned in a previous post, many substances used in electronics can have devastating effects on the human body and the environment after prolonged exposure.

I’d prefer to experience both a post-apocalyptic world and an end-of-the-world scenario in video games, not in real life.  Haven’t we played through those scenarios enough to know that as the creatures who will destroy Earth, we are the only ones who can save it? Maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but the truth is, these toxins and hazardous materials don’t disappear once we throw out the machines they were used in.

If you wish to write to any or all of the three major corporations about their “green” policies and see their charts, visit http://www.greenpeace.org/international/clashoftheconsoles/

If you would like more information on this topic according to Greenpeace, visit any of the links I have embedded above.

Do you think these scores are fair? Do you think they don’t provide enough background information for us to understand why they received the scores that they did?

Note: The rankings were based on a report done in 2008.  Since then, different models have been produced (like the PS3 Slim pictured above.) I also found an article on IGN that gave different results for the watt-usage of the PS3s, so it is unclear how Greenpeace attained their numbers.

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