It is already well known that Blockchain and cryptocurrency mining such as Bitcoin generates enormous energy consumption about which many expert voices have warned. But Bitcoin also produces another environmental impact that is not so well known, such as the generation of electronic waste.
A new study, titled “Bitcoin’s growing e-waste problem” (The Growing Bitcoin E-Waste Problem), and published this month in the magazine Resources, Conservation and Recycling, quantifies that the entire Bitcoin network already generates up to 30.7 kilotonnes of electronic waste per year. “This level is comparable to the waste of small computer equipment produced by a country like the Netherlands,” according to the authors of the article.
The study explains that these electronic waste are the result of the use of highly specialized machines for the Bitcoins mining process, which quickly become obsolete as miners “rush to develop and deploy more efficient mining hardware” in order to gain a competitive advantage over their competition.
The study authors quantify that, on average, the time it takes for a mining device to become unprofitable amounts to less than 1.3 years, after which it is useless, since they are designed for that specific function. Out of an estimated 2.9 million active machines weighing 39.75 kilotonnes in total, this results in those 30.7 kilotonnes of electronic waste per year.
«Electronic waste in general« represents a growing threat to our environmentfrom toxic chemicals and heavy metals that seep into soils, to air and water pollution caused by improper recycling », the authors explain.
In addition, they add that “With the maximum levels of Bitcoin prices observed in early 2021, the annual amount of electronic waste can grow beyond 64.4 kilotonnes in the medium term”. But even without this additional growth, the current amount of e-waste generation represents 272 grams per transaction processed on the blockchain. This is the same amount of weight as a half iPad or two iPhones 12 mini.
Finally, the study points out that the need to produce these machines “may disrupt semiconductor supply chains globally “amid” growing demand for mining hardware. “
The article concludes that the most desirable solution to reduce this production of electronic waste would be replace mining system (Proof-of-Work) in its entirety. Alternatives like Proof-of-Stake “They remove the incentive to participate in a computational arms race and only require a device with an Internet connection to participate”. By implementing this in Bitcoin, the network would address both the problem of energy consumption and the generation of e-waste.
Source: Professional Waste,
Reference article: https://www.residuosprofesional.com/residuos-electronicos-bitcoin/,