Bitcoin mining causing “tonnes” of waste
Bitcoin mining produces electronic waste (e-waste) comparable to the small IT equipment waste that the Netherlands produces annually.
Bitcoin miners produce 30,700 tonnes of e-waste a year, which averages about 272 g (9.5oz) per transaction.
Miners of the cryptocurrency earn money by mining new Bitcoins, a process carried out by computing, which uses large amounts of energy.
To do so, they review Bitcoin transactions in exchange for a chance to acquire their own Bitcoin.
But the amount of electricity Bitcoin mining uses causes greenhouse gas pollution. Also, the computers used for mining have an estimated lifespan of 1.29 years, so as the computers become obsolete, they generate a lot of e-waste.
Electricity is key for Bitcoin miners, and as a result, they require more efficient processors. This means that specialised chips called Application-specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) are produced to fit the demand.
However, as ASICs are highly specialised, when they become obsolete, they can’t be “repurposed for another task or even another type of cryptocurrency mining algorithm”, the researchers write.
Although the chips cannot be reused, the components that take up much of the weight of the Bitcoin mining equipment, such as “metal casings and aluminium heat-sinks” can be recycled.
Worldwide, over 17% of e-waste is recycled, and the number is likely less in some countries where most miners are based where regulations on e-waste is poor.
But while the chips can’t be reused, much of the weight of Bitcoin mining equipment is made up of components such as “metal casings and aluminium heat-sinks” which could be recycled.
The researchers suggest that one solution to the problem of e-waste is to change the verification process of Bitcoin transactions to a less computing-intensive system.
They suggest that one solution to the problem of e-waste would be for Bitcoin to change the way transactions are verified, to a different less computing-intensive system.
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