"A single bitcoin transaction generates the same amount of electronic waste as
throwing two iPhones in the bin, according to a new analysis by economists from
the Dutch central bank and MIT.
While the carbon footprint of bitcoin is well studied, less attention has been
paid to the vast churn in computer hardware that the cryptocurrency
incentivises. Specialised computer chips called ASICs are sold with no other
purpose than to run the algorithms that secure the bitcoin network, a process
called mining that rewards those who partake with bitcoin payouts. But because
only the newest chips are power-efficient enough to mine profitably, effective
miners need to constantly replace their ASICs with newer, more powerful ones.
“The lifespan of bitcoin mining devices remains limited to just 1.29 years,”
write the researchers Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll in the paper, Bitcoin’s
growing e-waste problem, published in the journal Resources, Conservation and
“As a result, we estimate that the whole bitcoin network currently cycles
through 30.7 metric kilotons of equipment per year. This number is comparable
to the amount of small IT and telecommunication equipment waste produced by a
country like the Netherlands.”
In 2020 the bitcoin network processed 112.5m transactions (compared with 539bn
processed by traditional payment service providers in 2019), according to the
economists, meaning that each individual transaction “equates to at least 272g
of e-waste”. That’s the weight of two iPhone 12 minis."
This is just the e-waste cost of Bitcoin, in addition to the known issues with
the power consumption.
Via Joseph Teller.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics