Bitcoin mining produces electronic waste (e-waste) every year that is comparable to small waste IT equipment from a place like the Netherlands, according to research. Cryptocurrency miners produce 30,700 tonnes of electronic waste every year, say Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll. This averages out to 272 g (9.5 oz) per transaction, they say. For comparison, an iPhone 13 weighs 173 g (6.1 oz). Miners earn money by creating new Bitcoins, but the computing used consumes large amounts of energy. They audit Bitcoin transactions in exchange for an opportunity to acquire digital currency.
Attention has been focused on the electricity it consumes – currently more than in the Philippines – and the resulting greenhouse gas pollution.
But as the computers used for mining become obsolete, it also generates a lot of electronic waste.
Researchers estimate that Bitcoin mining devices have an average lifespan of just 1.29 years.
As a result, the amount of e-waste produced is comparable to a country’s ‘small IT and telecommunications equipment’ waste as the Dutch researchers put it – a category that includes cellphones, personal computers, printers and more. the phones.
The research is published in the journal Resources, Conservation & Recycling.
Electricity being a key cost for Bitcoin miners, they searched for ever better processors.
This has led to an evolution towards highly specialized chips called Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs).
But ASICs are so specialized that as they become obsolete, they cannot be “reused for some other task or even another type of cryptocurrency mining algorithm,” the researchers write.
But while the chips cannot be reused, much of the weight of Bitcoin mining equipment is made up of components like “metal cases and aluminum heat sinks” that could be recycled.
Globally, just over 17% of all electronic waste is recycled. However, the number is likely lower in some of the countries where most minors are based, where in many cases e-waste regulations are also poor.
Chip Shortage Many industries are struggling with a global chip shortage.
In addition to producing large amounts of electronic waste, the researchers say that “the rapid passage of millions of mining devices can disrupt the global supply chain of various other electronic devices.”
They suggest that a solution to the e-waste problem would be for Bitcoin to change the way transactions are verified, to another less computer-intensive system.