Tech

Why your lockdown gaming might be bad for the planet

Millions of people are spending their lockdowns playing football, racing cars or shooting zombies — but those video games arent all good, clean fun.

Game consoles are energy hogs and there are concerns about recycling them, but consoles arent covered by the EUs Ecodesign Directive, which mandates that appliances such as washing machines have to meet specific environmental targets or else face infringement proceedings by national authorities.

Instead, the console giants — Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo — struck an updated voluntary agreement on March 31 on ecodesign requirements, obtained by POLITICO. Such deals are allowed under EU rules if they corral manufacturers with at least 80 percent market share.

Environmental and consumer groups dont think thats a good idea. “We fear that those voluntary agreements are sometimes overused by manufacturers as an excuse not to be regulated,” said Aline Maigret, ecodesign project coordinator for the Bureau of European Consumers (BEUC) and ANEC, the European consumer voice in standardization.

She argued that mandatory requirements are more effective, saying voluntary deals are “not being taken seriously by manufacturers.”

The industry insists the voluntary deal is fine, and the Commission points out that the big three console-makers have had such an agreement in place since 2015. The EU executive says the deal helped save 41 terawatt hours of electricity over the lifecycle of the last generation of consoles.

The voluntary agreement “is setting rigorous energy efficiency targets for game consoles while committing its signatories to strive constantly for improved energy efficiency,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “This approach is effective, agile and accountable in a sector with considerable speed of product innovation.”

Sony and Nintendo did not respond to a request for comments.

But NGOs argue that the voluntary deal is a bad one, and that it sends a mixed message as it was signed just two weeks after the Commission announced its Circular Economy Action Plan, which includes measures to make electronics easier to repair and recycle.

“The commitments that are set at best reflect the status quo and they do not necessarily do a raise in the level of ambition,” said Ernestas Oldyrevas, program manager at the European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS). He added that this “becomes especially problematic when we are discussing entirely new sets of commitments in relation to the Circular Economy Action Plan.”

Sales of games and consoles surged in Europe last month as strict confinement measures were put in place. Those consoles are getting more powerful and more efficient, but there are also simply more of them around, which means they consume more energy.

A study published last October and commissioned by the EU executive shows that the annual electricity consumption of all the Playstation 4s and Xbox Ones in Europe has gone up by a factor of 10 since 2013. It estimated that both consoles will use 6.65 TWh of electricity in 2020 — emitting as much CO2 as 580,000 cars over a year.

Clean deal

The nonbinding pledge commits the three console-makers to reducing power consumption, to encouraging repairs by making spare parts available to authorized repairers, to improving recycling by marking the composition of plastic parts and to better informing consumers about how to dispose of their consoles.

But for ECOS, the voluntary pledge is not in line with the circular economy plans objectives. “The adoption of this voluntary initiative is in stark contrast to what has been outlined in the action plan,” Oldyrevas said. “It feels indeed like a major outlier in the overall picture.”

The voluntary agreement caps the power consumption of consoles at 60 watts for high-definition consoles and to 110 watts for ultra high-definition ones, but thats not enoughRead More – Source