According to studies, bitcoin mining generates an amount of electronic trash (e-waste) each year that is equivalent to the small IT equipment waste generated in the Netherlands.
Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll predict that bitcoin miners generate 30,700 tonnes of e-waste per year.
According to them, each transaction weighs an average of 272g (9.5oz). An iPhone 13 weights 173g in contrast (6.1oz).
Miners make money by generating new Bitcoins, but this requires a lot of computational power.
They examine Bitcoin transactions in exchange for the chance to buy the digital money.
The amount of power consumed – now greater than the Philippines – and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions have gotten a lot of attention.
However, when mining computers become obsolete, a large amount of e-waste is generated.
Bitcoin mining machines, according to the experts, have an average lifespan of approximately 1.29 years.
As a consequence, the quantity of e-waste created is equivalent to the trash generated by “small IT and communications equipment” in countries such as the Netherlands, according to the researchers. This category includes mobile phones, personal computers, printers, and telephones.
Resources, Conservation & Recycling is the publication where the study was published.
Miners Are Beginning To Turn Towards Efficiency
Bitcoin miners have sought for ever more efficient processors because power is a major cost for them.
As a result, Application-specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) have become increasingly popular (ASICs).
However, because ASICs are so specialized, they can’t be “repurposed for another task or even another sort of bitcoin mining algorithm,” according to the researchers.
While the chips themselves cannot be reused, most of the weight of Bitcoin mining equipment is made up of recyclable components such as “metal casings and aluminum heat-sinks.”
Only around 17% of all e-waste gets recycled globally. However, in some of the nations where most miners are situated, where e-waste rules are often lax, the number is likely to be lower.
Chip Shortage On The Horizon
A worldwide chip shortage is affecting several sectors.
The researchers believe that “rapidly cycling through millions of mining devices may disrupt the worldwide supply chain of many other electronic gadgets” in addition to creating significant amounts of e-waste.
They propose that one answer to the e-waste problem is for Bitcoin to switch to a less computing-intensive mechanism for transaction verification.