One bitcoin transaction creates the same amount of electronic waste as throwing away two iPhones


One bitcoin transaction generates the same amount of electronic waste as throwing away two smartphones, economists report. 

Because of the high demands on computers that mine for Bitcoin, the devices have an extremely short shelf-life.

The average lifespan of a bitcoin-mining device is just 1.29 years, according to a new report. 

That makes for a lot of garbage—about 33,800 tons a year, or the amount of small IT and telecommunication equipment thrown out by all of the Netherlands.  

Each transaction produces 9.5 ounces of e-waste, about the weight of two iPhone 12 minis.

Researchers worry that, with increasing interest in cryptocurrency, the Bitcoin trash heap could soon more than double in size.

The average lifespan of a bitcoin-mining device is just 1.29 years, resulting in bout 33,800 tons of e-waste a year. That’s equal to all the small IT and telecommunication equipment thrown out by the entire nation of the Netherlands

In bitcoin mining, specialty computers are used to solve complex math calculations and generate a coin of cryptocurrency.

Around the world warehouses, or ‘farms,’  are crammed with toaster-sized processors assigned to the task, running day and night.

The process is extremely energy intensive and mining computers, which use specialty computer chips known as ASICs, are quickly rendered obsolete.  

In 2020, there were 112.5 million bitcoin transactions, according to a report in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

That works out to 9.5 ounces of e-waste per transaction, or about the weight of two iPhone 12 minis, The Guardian indicated.

Around the world warehouses, or 'farms,' are crammed with toaster-sized processors assigned to solve complex math problems and generate cryptocurrency coins. The computers quickly become obsolete

 Around the world warehouses, or ‘farms,’ are crammed with toaster-sized processors assigned to solve complex math problems and generate cryptocurrency coins. The computers quickly become obsolete

‘E-waste represents a growing threat to our environment, from toxic chemicals and heavy metals leaching into soils, to air and water pollutions caused by improper recycling,’ wrote co-authors Alex de Vries, a data scientist for the Dutch central bank, and Christian Stoll, a researcher at MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.

‘Bitcoin miners cycle through a growing amount of short-lived hardware that could exacerbate the growth in global electronic waste,’ they continued.  

The demand for mining computers is also worsening the global semiconductor chip shortage, De Vries and Stoll said.

As interest in rises, the researchers worry the amount of e-waste generated could continue to balloon.

Based on the record-breaking surge in Bitcoin price this year—an all-time high of $64,863 in April 2021—it could reach 74,000 tons of e-waste in a six-month period.

Based on the record-breaking surge in Bitcoin price this year—an all-time high of $64,863 in April 2021—cryptocurrency mining could generate 74,000 tons of e-waste in a six-month period.

Based on the record-breaking surge in Bitcoin price this year—an all-time high of $64,863 in April 2021—cryptocurrency mining could generate 74,000 tons of e-waste in a six-month period.

De Vries and Stoll suggest replacing current bitcoin-mining strategies with a sustainable alternative, like a ‘proof of stake.’ 

In that system, users put forward some of their coins, rather than use vast amounts of computing power, in exchange for the right to verify transactions and earn more coins. 

The blockchain platform Cardano, which has a  $50 billion market capitalization, uses proof-of-stake. 

Ethereum announced plans in May to move to proof of stake ‘within months,’ Business Insider reported, although the change has yet to happen.

In addition to the physical waste, Bitcoin uses tremendous amounts of energy—more than mining for gold, platinum and other precious metals, according to a 2018 report in the journal Nature Sustainability.

Creating Bitcoin to spend or trade consumes around 91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, according to The New York Times, more than generated by all of Finland. 

That usage has increased tenfold in the last five years, the Times reported, and now represents nearly a half-percent of all the electricity consumed globally.

A 2018 study warned that the huge farms of computers used to mine Bitcoin produce the same amount of carbon dioxide per year as all the automobiles in the UK combined. 

WHAT IS BITCOIN AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

What are Bitcoins?

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency – an online type of money which is created using computer code.

It was invented in 2009 by someone calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto – a mysterious computer coder who has never been found or identified themselves.

Bitcoins are created without using middlemen – which means no banks take a fee when they are exchanged.

They are stored in what are called virtual wallets known as blockchains which keep track of your money.

One of the selling points is that it can be used to buy things anonymously.

However, this has left the currency open to criticism and calls for tighter regulation as terrorists and criminals have used to it traffic drugs and guns.

How are they created?

Bitcoins are created through a process known as ‘mining’ which involves computers solving difficult maths problems with a 64-digit solution.

Every time a new maths problem is solved a fresh Bitcoin is produced.

Some people create powerful computers for the sole purpose of creating Bitcoins.

But the number which can be produced are limited – meaning the currency should maintain a certain level of value.

Why are they popular?

Some people value Bitcoin because it is a form of currency which cuts out banking middlemen and the Government – a form of peer to peer currency exchange.

And all transactions are recorded publicly so it is very hard to counterfeit.

Its value surged in 2017 – beating the ‘tulip mania’ of the 17th Century and the dot com boom of the early 2000s to be the biggest bubble in history.

But the bubble appeared to have burst, and questions arose over what market there is for it long-term.

However, it has since boomed again, and in March 2021, surpassed the $60,000 mark for the fist time. 

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