How to Recycle Old Video Games and Consoles

Consider recycling, donating, or selling your old video games and consoles.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

What to do with old video games?
What to do with old video games? / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

Whether you’re a fair weather gamer or a hardcore competitor, you likely go through video games and consoles relatively frequently. As one of the fastest growing industries in consumer electronics, video gaming – whether you’re into PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo – your environmental footprint is impacted by how much you tune into this electronic entertainment.

This is an especially big problem because of the fast-paced development of new games and consoles. Over time as you replace outdated equipment and games, you likely struggle with what to do with obsolete items if you can’t sell them. Only around 25% of all electronic waste, including game consoles and video games, is collected for recycling. This amounts to a waste of resources and a growing recycling problem.

Those consoles that are thrown away result in hazardous chemicals and materials like phthalatesbromineberyllium, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ending up in the landfill where they poison the planet. Trashed video games are made of plastic that can be laced with BPA, which is then coated with aluminum, gold, and lacquer, making them difficult (but not impossible!) to recycle. And when thrown in the garbage, they’ll take up to 1,000 years to break down!

Donating or selling used video games and consoles

When you’ve gotten as much life out of your gaming system as you can but the equipment still works, you may be able to find ways to extend their life which is always greener than landfilling used electronics.

  • Donate used video consoles and games: Many local charities could really use a donation of video games, especially residential programs like women’s shelters, hospices, children’s hospitals, and the like. Call around to see who might be willing to take your used equipment.
  • Trade in or sell video games and consoles: If you can’t find anyone interested in taking your used video equipment, look for ways to sell or trade them. In our recycling database, we’ve got a great list of potential retailers and companies specializing in this area

Recycling old video consoles and games

Just like all other DVDs and CDs used for regular computing, all video games can be recycled – jackets and discs included. There are also plenty of electronics recycling programs available for recycling your game console so that you don’t have to send it to the landfill.

  • Specialized video game recyclers: Some companies, such as Nintendo, make it their business to recycle video game consoles and games. 
  • Regional electronics recycling: If you don’t want to pay to ship your used electronics in for recycling (some programs require this), then consider looking for local e-waste recycling programs in your area. Contact your municipal solid waste department to see if they have an electronics collection program where you could recycle video games and consoles for free.

Sustainable recyclers of e-waste

As with any e-waste challenge, you’ll want to choose an ethical recycler that promotes safe and fair methods for recycling your electronic waste. The bulk of all e-waste is sent overseas where the components are dismantled (sometimes smashed apart) by people (often children) without proper personal protection making less than $1.50 per day. Without safe disposal regulations, these countries are often saddled with the toxic burden that comes with electronics recycling. To ensure that you’re not contributing to overseas pollution problems, look for recyclers that use responsible recycling methods.

  • The Basel Action Network (BAN) is an international environmental organization working to reduce toxic manufacturing and disposal. They maintain a list of e-Stewards that use sustainable e-waste recycling processes.
  • Alternatively, you can ask any potential recyclers a series of questions to determine whether they use safe and fair e-waste handling methods.