The Sony PlayStation 5 is one of the most popular video game consoles currently on the market. Released in November 2020, Sony has sold over 17 million units as of February 2022. With such a high level of supply and demand for a product, it can be difficult for a company to limit their carbon footprint and environmental impact, but according to Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), commitment to energy efficiency is an integral part of the design process and not an afterthought. However, that doesn’t mean the PS5 isn’t going to have any environmental impact.
According to Sony’s website, the plastic parts of the PS5 are made of PC ABS and ABS, types of polycarbonate. Whether or not these plastics are recycled materials is unknown, but there is a good chance they are, considering SIE says that the console is designed to be recyclable. They also claim to have implemented a new resource-efficient packaging design that contains no more than 1 to 7 percent plastic per unit by weight. Sony Interactive plans on eliminating plastic packaging entirely for small products by 2025. Most of the PS5’s packaging consists of eco-friendly cardboard and recycled materials. I think it’s fantastic that SIE had the initiative to create packaging for their console that has such a small carbon footprint. Of the three giants of the gaming industry (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo), Sony definitely seems to be doing the most for sustainable efforts.
As for the console itself, the PS5 uses the AMD Zen 2 silicon computer chip. The production of computer chips is costly on the environment. It takes 10 gallons of water to produce a single chip. The typical semiconductor factory uses 20 million gallons of water per month to produce silicon chips, and this water has to be disposed of as waste because it often contains toxic chemicals. When it comes to technological components such as chips, I don’t really see many alternatives to the materials that can be used. Other metals besides silicon can be used for computers, such as germanium or gallium arsenide, but these are all still metals that have to be mined. I think when it comes to chips or any product that can’t really use more sustainable substitutes, what can be done is to recycle old parts so that the production of new silicon chips can be reduced to a minimum.
The PlayStation 5 silicon chips are manufactured in Taiwan by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC. They are the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers. In 2020, they produced over 15 million tons of carbon. This number is only expected to rise, as demand for chips is increasing and TSMC has plans to expand. The production of silicon chips takes a heavy toll on the environment. As mentioned before, it takes 10 gallons of water to produce a single silicon chip, and the amount of electricity and energy used by TSMC is very high. In order to reduce carbon emissions, TSMC must switch over to renewable energy as soon as possible. They announced that they plan to switch to renewables to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, which I think is great, but I am skeptical if this will actually be achieved. After all, 91 percent of Taiwan is powered by fossil fuels. When it comes to other aspects of the PS5 supply chain, Sony says that they are aware that shipping via trucking and air freight are the most carbon-heavy ways of shipment, so they try to use rail and water to ship their products as much as possible. The majority of their products are bulk shipped from China and packaged locally, which greatly reduced the number of shipping containers used to transport them. It’s nice to see that Sony realizes the effects of shipping on the environment, and I think their model on shipping and packaging is exemplary for not just the tech industry, but any company that mass produces goods that have to be shipped across the globe.
When it comes to the specs of the hardware itself, SIE is making as much effort as they can to reduce the carbon footprint of their device. In addition to a low power resume mode that uses less energy, the PS5 contains energy efficient technology that will save up to 39000 tons of CO2 per year for every million consoles sold. It can be difficult to grasp the concept that something like a video game console can produce carbon dioxide, but a single unit can produce 0.022 kg/hr. Consider that millions of people purchase these products, and this number drastically increases. As the gaming industry grows, more powerful machines are only going to be made with each console generation, forcing console manufacturers to come up with more solutions to reduce emissions.
As mentioned earlier, the PlayStation 5 is owned and produced by Sony Interactive Entertainment, a branch of Sony. The company has taken many steps to limit their carbon footprint and environmental impact with the PS5, from eco-friendly packaging to energy efficient hardware. I really do think that SIE understands the importance of sustainable technology and the responsibilities corporations have on reducing their impact. SIE is making drastic improvements with the technology of the PS5, with many energy-saving advancements as part of the hardware. Like all things, there is always going to be room for improvement. I look forward to seeing how SIE will make their future consoles even more energy efficient in a world where the demand for technological advancements is growing. Working with the United Nations, SIE along with many other gaming companies took up the “Playing for the Planet” initiative back in 2019. This includes making environmental impact reports more transparent for the public to see. While I think transparency is a great aspect of ESG to include, simply having important information about impact is only so useful. Transparency will make more people aware of the actual environmental impact, but it isn’t going to solve any actual problems. Nonetheless, it is still a positive that something as big as the UN realizes that the gaming industry can be part of the problem/solution of climate change