Home Bitcoin News Bitcoin Mining Bitcoin mining creates mountains of e-waste – Quartz

Bitcoin mining creates mountains of e-waste – Quartz

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It’s no secret that cryptocurrency mining has a large carbon footprint. The method requires legions of electricity-hungry computer systems that work across the clock to unlock new cash by cracking math issues. As a result of these issues get more and more complicated over time, the system rewards energy waste: Any downtime makes the following coin more durable to earn, and the one technique to get an edge over opponents is to run extra computer systems. And because the worth of bitcoin rises—it was $47,318 on Sept. 19, under the height above $60,000 reached in April—mining activity, and thus emissions, follows suit. The annual carbon footprint at this time is akin to that of the London metro space.

However this mining system additionally pressures miners to run solely the newest, quickest, most energy-efficiency pc chips and discard older ones. That results in a mountain of digital waste, in accordance with a study revealed Sept. 16 within the journal Sources, Conservation, and Recycling. The typical lifespan of a bitcoin mining chip is simply 1.3 years, the examine discovered, primarily based on an evaluation of the speed at which new {hardware} turns into out there and assuming that almost all miners change their chips at that charge, a sound assumption as a result of in any other case it’s almost inconceivable to show a revenue.

Consequently, at present bitcoin costs, the annual quantity of e-waste from bitcoin mining globally is about 30,700 metric tons—about as a lot because the Netherlands produces in a 12 months from laptops, telephones, and different private computing units. Divided by the common variety of bitcoin transactions, which means simply two transactions create as a lot waste as a disposed iPad, mentioned Alex de Vries, a cryptocurrency economist and the examine’s lead creator.

Easy methods to scale back bitcoin’s e-waste footprint

E-waste is the world’s fastest-growing waste stream, up 21% between 2014 and 2019 to 53.6 million metric tons, in accordance with the United Nations. Lower than one-fifth of that’s recycled, and lots of the metals and chemical compounds contained in e-waste are harmful to human health. Bitcoin’s rising urge for food for brand new {hardware} can also be contributing to the global shortage of semiconductor chips, de Vries mentioned.

The answer to bitcoin’s e-waste footprint is identical as that of its carbon footprint: A brand new method to mining that isn’t primarily based on the concept of bigger-is-better. Ether, a competitor to bitcoin, is on the cusp of transitioning to a brand new mining methodology referred to as proof-of-stake which is way extra energy-efficient than the proof-of-work precept utilized by bitcoin and will be carried out on common computer systems. If bitcoin made the same swap, it might dramatically minimize its e-waste—however so long as costs as rising, it’s unlikely miners will wish to rock the boat.

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