There is no doubt Cryptocurrency in its current form, it is bad news for our planet. But while a lot of attention has been paid to cryptos CO2 footprint and electricity consumption, its effects on e-waste have not been studied in a similar way.
A new study appears in the Journal this month Resources, Conservation and Recycling has developed a method to estimate how much waste Bitcoin, the leader in crypto, generates each year. the Researchers say that this is due to the short lifespan of bitcoin mining devices, such as the specialized ASIC computer chips whose sole purpose is to mine bitcoin.
ASIC chips are constantly being replaced by newer, more energy-efficient ones, according to miners the guard, and are generally only in use for 1.29 years. This undoubtedly creates a lot of waste. In fact, the researchers put a number on it.
„As a result, we estimate that the entire Bitcoin network currently passes 30.7 kilotons of equipment per year,” the researchers wrote. „This number is comparable to the amount of small IT and telecommunications equipment that is produced in a country like the Netherlands.”
While most of us know that a kiloton isn’t a joke – it’s over 2.2 million pounds – it can be a bit hard to imagine all that e-waste. The researchers state that each Bitcoin transaction generated at least 272 grams of electronic waste (0.59 pounds). The Guardian has broken it down: That’s roughly two iPhone 12 minis of e-waste.
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There were 112.5 million Bitcoin transactions in 2020.
In other words, that’s billions and billions of iPhone minis worth trash every year. If you haven’t felt bad for our planet before – e-waste can release toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the soil, while improper recycling can lead to air and water pollution – I hope you do now.
The ASIC chips could theoretically be used again if Bitcoin prices and profits rise, but there are many barriers preventing miners from using them again. The researchers emphasize that one factor is the cost of storing the hardware. The longer Bitcoin mining equipment is stored, the less likely it will ever be profitable.
However, the e-waste problem can get worse very quickly. It all depends on the bitcoin price. The researchers state that, given the spike in Bitcoin price in 2021, the more than $ 60,000, electronic waste could grow to over 64.4 kilotons in the medium term.
To address Bitcoin’s e-waste problem, the current mining process would have to be replaced with a more sustainable alternative, such as proof of proportion.