Bitcoin mining generates an amount of electronic garbage (e-waste) each year that is similar to the small IT equipment waste generated in the Netherlands, research shows.
Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll predict that cryptocurrency miners generate 30,700 tonnes of e-waste per year.
Each transaction weighs an average of 272g (9.5oz). An iPhone 13 weights 173g in comparison (6.1oz).
Miners make money by producing new Bitcoins, but this requires a lot of computing power.
They examine Bitcoin transactions in exchange for the chance to buy the digital money.
The amount of electricity consumed - presently higher than the Philippines - and the resulting greenhouse gas pollution have gotten a lot of attention.
However, as mining computers become obsolete, a large amount of e-waste is generated.
Bitcoin mining gadgets, according to the experts, have an average lifespan of approximately 1.29 years.
As a result, the amount of e-waste produced is comparable to the garbage 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.
Bitcoin miners have sought out ever more efficient processors because electricity is a major cost for them.
As a result, Application-specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) have become increasingly popular (ASICs).
However, because ASICs are so specialised, they can't be "repurposed for another task or even another type of cryptocurrency mining algorithm," according to the researchers.
While the chips themselves are not recyclable, much of the weight of Bitcoin mining equipment is made up of recyclable components such as "metal casings and aluminium heat-sinks."
Only about 17% of all e-waste is recycled globally. However, in some of the nations where most miners are based, where e-waste restrictions are often lax, the number is likely to be lower.
A global chip shortage is affecting several businesses.
The researchers warn that "rapidly cycling through millions of mining devices may disrupt the worldwide supply chain of many other electronic gadgets" in addition to producing enormous amounts of e-waste.
They suggest that Bitcoin might be one solution to the e-waste problem to change the way transactions are verified, to a different less computationally-intensive system.
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