According to foreign media reports,According to a new analysis by economists from the Dutch Central Bank and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the amount of e-waste generated by a Bitcoin transaction is the same as two iPhones thrown in the trash can.
Although the carbon footprint of Bitcoin has been well studied, enough attention has not been paid to the huge changes in computer hardware that cryptocurrencies incentivize. Efficient miners need to constantly replace their ASICs with newer and more powerful chips. Researchers Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll wrote in the paper “Bitcoin’s Growing E-waste Problem” published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling: “The life of Bitcoin mining equipment is still limited, only 1.29 years. .”
“Therefore, we estimate that the entire Bitcoin network currently recycles 30.7 tons of equipment each year. This figure is equivalent to the amount of waste generated by small IT and telecommunications equipment in countries like the Netherlands.”
According to economists, in 2020, the Bitcoin network processed 112.5 million transactions (while traditional payment service providers processed 538 billion transactions in 2019), which means that each individual transaction is “equivalent to at least 272 grams of electronic waste”. This is equivalent to the weight of two iPhone 12 minis.
E-waste is a problem for cryptocurrencies because, unlike most computing hardware, ASICs have no other purpose than Bitcoin mining. If they cannot be used to mine Bitcoin for profit, they have no future at all. use. The author pointed out that, in theory, these devices may regain the ability to operate profitably at some point in the future, if the price of Bitcoin suddenly rises and promotes an increase in mining revenue.
They added: “Nevertheless, there are several factors that generally prevent the life of mining equipment from being extended significantly. It costs money to store mining hardware, and the longer it is stored, the less profitable it is.”
The author also warns that if the price of Bitcoin continues to rise, the e-waste problem may grow further because it will incentivize further investment and replacement of ASIC hardware.
The conclusion of the paper is that if the community tries to reduce its e-waste problem, it will need to completely replace the Bitcoin mining process with a more sustainable alternative. The paper recommends turning to the “proof of equity” mechanism, an experimental alternative . For example, Ethereum announced in May that it plans to switch to a “proof-of-stake” mechanism within a few months, although this hasn’t happened yet.
Other Bitcoin alternatives have been less successful in limiting their environmental footprint. Chia, a cryptocurrency built on a “proof of time and space” algorithm, is accused of causing a shortage of hard drives and solid state drives, a storage medium popular in fast computers. Cryptocurrency expert David Gerard said: “Chia is not just a waste of electricity, but also leading to a shortage of solid state drives at an alarming rate, and it has also completely destroyed the market for large hard drives.”