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Bitcoin mining produces tonnes of e-waste, finds study

written by Bella Palmer
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As per the UN, e-waste is the world's fastest-growing waste stream, up 21 per cent between 2014 and 2019 to 53.6 million metric tonnes and less than one-fifth of that is recycled

Bitcoin mining generates as much as 30.7 metric kilotonnes of e-waste every year as of May 2021 which is comparable to small IT equipment waste produced by countries like the Netherlands, a new study revealed.

According to a new study by Science Direct, at peak Bitcoin price levels seen early in 2021, the annual amount of e-waste may grow beyond 64.4 metric kilotonnes in the midterm, which highlights the dynamic trend if the Bitcoin price rises further.

E-waste represents a growing threat to our environment, from toxic chemicals and heavy metals leaching into soils, to air and water pollution caused by improper recycling, said the study.

Divided by the average number of bitcoin transactions that means just two transactions create as much waste as a disposed iPad, said Alex de Vries, a cryptocurrency economist and the study's lead author, reports Quartz.

This mining system had also created pressures miners to run only the latest, fastest, most energy-efficiency computer chips and discard older ones.

The researchers estimate Bitcoin mining devices have an average lifespan of only 1.29 years.

In addition to producing large amounts of e-waste the researchers argue that rapidly cycling through millions of mining devices may disrupt the global supply chain of various other electronic devices.

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.

The e-waste problem will probably grow further if the price of bitcoin continues to rise, since it will incentivise further investment in and replacement of ASIC hardware.

As per the UN, e-waste is the world's fastest-growing waste stream, up 21 per cent between 2014 and 2019 to 53.6 million metric tonnes and less than one-fifth of that is recycled.

To reduce the e-waste generated from bitcoin, a new mining method called proof-of-stake which is far more energy-efficient than the proof-of-work principle used by bitcoin and can be performed on regular computers should be encouraged, the report added.

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