Cell phones, smartphones, computers and monitors — you know these are all part of the mountain of e-waste we’re building with our out-of-date electronics. But there’s another, less obvious addition to the list of environmental offenders, and it’s one that bears consideration as we head into the holiday gift-buying season: video games and gaming systems.

Last year, more than 40 million video game consoles were purchased by gamers all across the globe. Here in the U.S. we spent over $20 billion on video gaming, with new PlayStation’s, Wii’s and Xbox’s accounting for nearly a quarter of that amount.

What’s Inside the Box?

As you might expect, the circuit board inside a gaming console contains a variety of valuable — and mostly recyclable — metals. Underneath the petroleum-based plastic casing you’re likely to find copper, lead, gold, beryllium, tantalum, zinc and silver. It’s this small treasure trove of mined materials that makes your old video game console worth recycling.

There’s one other substance frequently used in gaming console circuit boards, and it’s worth a special mention. This is a metallic ore called coltan, and some environmentalists are calling it “the new blood diamond.” Coltan is a valuable component in electronics because it’s an excellent conductor of electricity that’s also highly resistant to heat.

The largest supplies of coltan are located in the Republic of the Congo, and since it’s sold for as much as $150 per pound, it’s the source of serious conflicts that have cost the lives of millions of people there. Coltan mining has also put the Congo’s population of Eastern Mountain Gorillas in danger of extinction, as miners in the deep rainforest depend on gorilla meat, or “bush meat” as it’s called, as their main source of food.

Recycling the coltan contained in video game consoles and other electronics can significantly reduce the impact of mining on the rainforest environment and its inhabitants. More importantly, as demand for new sources of coltan are minimized, the exploitation and violence surrounding mining activities can be reduced as well.

Who’s Taking the Lead?

Founded in 1997, the Basel Action Network is the world’s only organization dedicated wholly to reducing the global impact of toxic waste. BAN conducts deep research and investigations of toxic waste disposal policies and practices, and is an internationally recognized advocate for environmental safety and human rights in countries where toxic dumps proliferate.

One of BAN’s most important campaigns is the E-Stewards Initiative, a collaboration between electronics recyclers and concerned electronics manufacturers, retailers and related industries. The project promotes the development of greener, more sustainable designs and the responsible recycling of used electronics. Current E-Steward Enterprises include the Alcoa Corporation, Boeing, Staples, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

Joining this group of economic powerhouses is a new organization that’s specifically targeting video game and gaming system manufacturers. WarpSpeed Innovations has partnered with the E-Stewards Initiative and BAN to promote environmentally responsible manufacture and recycling practices in the video gaming industry.

WarpSpeed’s new brand, Force Multiply Gaming, will work with BAN and the E-Stewards Initiative to move the multi-billion dollar gaming industry forward into a new era of social and environmental responsibility. We’re excited to see what this partnership will accomplish, and we look forward to a new generation of greener gaming.