Games consoles have once again found their way into Greenpeace's firing line. The environmental campaigning body has linked the PS3 and Xbox 360 to interfere with sexual development.
Following the publication of a report detailing the chemical make-up of the three new-gen consoles, Greenpeace has said on its website:
“Components of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation3 also contained high levels of phthalates, one of which – DEHP – is known to interfere with sexual development in mammals: including humans and, especially, males.”
While Nintendo wasn't named in that particular chemical offence, it far from escaped Greenpeace's ire. "Nintendo doesn't have any environmental policies", said Zeina Al-Hajj, Greenpeace's International Toxic Campaign co-ordinator.
Last year Greenpeace ranked Nintendo at the bottom of its list of 'green' technology companies
, a fact that has been picked up on by the likes of the BBC.
However, SPOnG contacted Nintendo and was told, “Nintendo has not been badly rated by Greenpeace. Greenpeace chose to conduct a survey and produce a report, which graded companies upon the voluntary submission of information.
"Nintendo decided not to take part in the survey and were therefore 'ungraded' in the resulting report. Nintendo provides detailed information regarding our compliance to EU Directives via the Consumer Section of our website and therefore we felt it unnecessary to take part in the Greenpeace survey."
So, this is largely a repeat of last November's to-and-fro between Nintendo and Greenpeace as reported here with Nintendo's response
and here with Nintendo's response to Greenpeace
At least Nintendo responded - as yet we've had no response from Microsoft or Sony.
The Wii was named, alongside the PS3 and Xbox 360, as having “high levels of bromine”, which does not break down easily and can “build up in the environment”. Greenpeace informs the world, “Long-term exposure can lead to impaired learning and memory functions. They can also interfere with thyroid and oestrogen hormone systems and exposure in the womb has been linked to behavioural problems."
In particular, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was pointed to as containing both phthalates, and brominated flame retardants. Microsoft has committed to removing PVC from the 360 by 2010. While Nintendo also said that it would remove the substance from its products, it hasn't given a time scale.
"We have endeavoured to eliminate the use of PVC by replacing it with other materials and other methods”, said a Nintendo spokesperson. "However, we continue to use PVC in certain products such as AC adaptors, within the scope of regulations from the viewpoint of ensuring safety."
Sony, which has already stopped putting PVC in its mobile devices, says that it will remove PVC from its consoles, "as and when we are satisfied that we can produce products of equal Sony quality in all regards using new alternative materials".
Greenpeace stated that all the consoles it tested complied with EU regulations. The organisation pointed out that they contain chemicals that do not comply with rules on toys, however. Games consoles are not classed as toys by the EU. "We see a gap there. For us this is still a toy. And whether or not it's a toy, we do not want these chemicals in our products", said Al-Hajj. SPOnG's not even going there...
Nintendo responded with, "We fully comply with all the necessary EU Directives on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances aimed at environmental protection and consumer health and safety. Furthermore, in order to ensure our products are safe for use by young children we also take into consideration the standards applicable to toys."
Concerns were also raised about the lack of safe disposal methods for consoles. “Once they’ve reached the end of useful life, game consoles are often dumped and end up in unsafe and dirty recycling yards in developing countries,where toxic contents harm both the environment and the health of workers”, states an article on Greenpeace's website. Sony says that it has joined firms such as Braun, HP and Electrolux to form the European Recycling Platform.
We can sling different chemical names at different companies all we like, however, but ultimately Greenpeace seems to see little difference between the three company's gaming products. “Overall there were many similarities in the types and amounts of hazardous chemicals and materials used in the three consoles”, the report concludes.
Greenpeace also stated that, individually, the different platform holders had taken positive measures to reduce the presence of hazardous substances in their products. “...if manufacturers only looked at each other’s products, they’d quickly see ways of replacing their own dirty components with toxic-freematerials (sic)”, said the Greenpeace article.UPDATE:
Yesterday SPOnG reported that Microsoft and Sony had not responded to our request for comment. Sony has now got back to us, saying - "Sony (including Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.) observes standards, such as the EU RoHS Directive on a worldwide basis. Sony has also established its own global standards "SS-00259" for management of chemical substances. These standards take into account applicable laws and regulations and the opinions of various stakeholders. In line with these standards, Sony ensures globally consistent management of chemical substances in parts and materials.
"Also Environment-related substances which are exempt from the regulations, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalates, beryllium and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are classified in SS-00259 into the category that phasing out is planned. (Delivery certain parts containing these substances is banned.) As for the products of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., we are taking steps wherever possible to reduce and substitute these substances, such as the elimination of the use of BFRs in the cabinets of the game consoles."Update 2:
Microsoft has now also commented on its stance with regard to the environment. SPOnG was told by a rep, "Microsoft is committed to environmental sustainability and has many programs and policies in place to lessen our footprint. In our consumer electronics business, we comply with and exceed all environmental guidelines and regulations. We are committed to making ongoing progress on environmental issues while maintaining product durability, safety and performance."Sources: