The Nintendo Switch is an amazing console but is it environmentally friendly? Game cartridges and game companies create a lot of waste, just how much waste does Nintendo create? I decided to find out.
Nintendo in 2010 only scored 1.4/10 for its chemical, e-waste, energy policies in Greenpeace’s annual guide to greener electronics the worst of 18 companies tested. But in 2019 Nintendo Of America recycled 99% of returned products and has greatly improved environmental policies.
However the question is a lot more complicated and not exactly is a straight answer, I will explain how what raw materials make up the Switch and how Nintendo harvests these mate
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Is The Nintendo Switch Environmentally Friendly?
In a world where companies are becoming increasingly environmentally friendly, Nintendo is still vague on its environmental policy, and how it acquires raw materials for the Switch.
Nintendo eco policies focus more on recycling and Nintendo of America offers a free Take Back Program for customers to send used products to Nintendo for recycling. In 2019 Nintendo Canada and America processed 313.8 tons of returned products with 99% being recycled.
Nintendo also reused nearly two-thirds of returned product in their original form, this is far better than Nintendo ranking joint bottom out of 18 companies in Greenpeaces annual report and was awarded just 1.4 out of 10 for its chemical, e-waste and energy policies in 2010.
What Is The Nintendo Switch Made Of?
The Nintendo Switch is made of two types of raw materials, metal and plastic. Multiple internal components require minerals including the battery and circuit board, with the plastic making up the outer shell of protection and overall shape of the console.
Metal Components Of The Nintendo Switch
- Printed circuit board
- Lithium-ion battery
- AZ91D metal skeleton sheet
- Copper heat pipe(Choi)
Minerals Of The Nintendo Switch
Apart from metal the Switch relies on plastic for protection and to create the shape of the console, the plastic is made up of coal, natural gas and oil, and Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS covers most of the Nintendo Switch including the Joycons, buttons, and tablet.
The Switches screen is not glass but rather a clear plastic which makes it vulnerable to scratches., whilst Nintendo needs a dye of paint to color the plastic no information is known about the process.
The problem with the Switches materials is the how you get them is very harmful to the environment.
How Nintendo Gets Raw Materials
Despite Nintendo saying this on their website on how they procure materials, Nintendo still does not give specifics on when and how they get their raw materials so we have to estimate by understanding what are the methods of getting these materials from the Earth.
Nintendo has established an effort to reduce environmental burden by complying with the environmental laws of each country as a matter to be adhered to in the development of our dedicated video game systems and accessories.https://www.nintendo.co.jp/csr/en/q_and_a/qa5.html
To get metals and coal two things the Switch needs they can only be mined from the Earth’s crust, there are two types of mining (strip mining and underground mining) it is unknown which type Nintendo uses but both are not environmentally friendly!
Mining destroys both landscapes and wild habitats, waterways in particular as the dust from mining results in a loss of life for both fish and plant life. Air pollution from coal is linked to many diseases including asthma and cancer near coal mining communities which also affect animals and plant life.
Plastic oil and natural gas are all needed for the Switch and must be drilled either onshore or offshore, which expose trapped water to the Earths surface also bringing dangerous radioactive materials harmful to both humans and the environmental.
Offshore drilling is also bad as it needs a lot of land which potentially harms wildlife, All drilled oil and gas will be used as fossil fuel throughout the Switches life cycle, and even in the Switches beginning stages a lot of damage has already been done to mother Earth.
To create the metal components of the Switch according to ICMM metals must be “separated from waste material to form a concentrate … by adding chemicals to the ore materials and running them through a series of processes.
This process of oral combustion is very toxic to the environmental , if you want to know more read the ICMM article linked above.
The PCB or printed circuit board is made of metals mostly copper and gold for conductivity, to connect these parts a solder is used which is kinda like glue, this materials is very toxic and releases noxious fumes to the environment.
The lithium-Ion battery is rechargeable but this comes with a problem. Whenever creating a lithium-ion battery a chemical called NMP which emits toxic flammable vapors is used in manufacturing, this contradicts Nintendo official statement in the green procurement area of their website which is as follows.
In the procurement of parts for our dedicated video game systems and accessories, Nintendo gives special consideration to ensuring that chemical substances toxic to humans or the environment are not included in its products. Nintendo has established its own chemical substance control standards to promote Green Procurement practices by referencing the RoHS Directive and the REACH Regulation in Europe, and toy regulations in countries around the world.https://www.nintendo.co.jp/csr/en/q_and_a/qa5.html
Other materials like ABS plastic the Nvidia Tegra X1 chip and ribbon cables do not have more materials materials of no one knows their manufacturing process, however like most of the materials they are quite lethal to the environment.
Finally, all the components are shipped of factories in Southeast Asia where the Switch is finally made, then the consoles are shipped worldwide.
You clearly see how damaging the environment the creation of the Nintendo Switch is, but how environmentally friendly are Nintendo as a company? All electronic companies likely go through similar manufacturing processes and need fossil fuels so how does Nintendo stack up.
You can see in this CSR report(corporate social responsibility report) Nintendo has taken steps to be more eco friendly to reduce fossil fuel usage. One is using “energy-efficient modes of transportation (modal shift)”.
Modal shift suggests Nintendo is focussing on transportation of its raw materials by cars and train more than the more polluting planes and ships, ships are most electronic manufacturing main forms of transportation as it is cheaper compared to the others.
How Environmentally Is The Nintendo Switch In It’s Lifespan?
The Nintendo Switch uses little or no raw toxic materials, as the battery is rechargeable and if part of the console is broken using the Nintendo Product Recycling initiative Nintendo will repair the specific damaged parts.
Clearly fossil fuels and maybe raw materials are used whenever transporting the console for repairs but I don’t think Nintendo can be blamed for this, and the same raw materials are used for the repairs but the repair requests don’t happen too frequently, and sometimes due to Nintendos solid recycling policy new materials are not needed at all.
According to Nintendo they “recycle close to 100 percent of the materials from any returned products or repair parts that cannot be reused, and partner with a certified recycler to ensure responsible recycling practice” but they do not give specifics on HOW parts are recycled.
Impressively Nintendo doesn’t just accept their consoles with the initiative but even consoles produced by their main competitors Sony and Microsoft! These recycled materials are refurbished and used to produce new Nintendo products reducing the number of fossil fuels used in manufacturing.
Until electric cars are all mainstream the transportation of recycled goods still need fossil fuels but Nintendo suggests you should recycle locally with a “recycler with a commitment to supporting environmental stewardship who will handle the donated material in a responsible way” minimizing waste
Nintendo recycles almost all of returned goods so what happens to the rest? Electronic waste is left in a huge pit or burned, wasting fossil fuel in transportation and coal to be used to fuel the fire.
Honestly, Nintendos recycling efforts have come a LONG way since 2009 as at the end of the Switch’s life cycle, most materials will never become waste but rather be recycled back into the Switches life cycle, which is impressive.
In this modern more eco friendly world people like Greta Thunberg have brought eco-friendly policies to the masses, and despite Nintendo relying on toxic materials and environmentally unfriendly ways to produce the Switch I think most companies are subjected to these practises due to cost in production.
The Nintendo Switch is both eco friendly and very non eco friendly but Nintendo have come a long way since 2019 and hopefully all companies not just Nintendo will improve all their policies to become green and help the beautiful Earth in which we all live.
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