While most of the world is focusing on the carbon footprint of environmental pollution, less attention is already being paid to e-waste, which is growing from year to year. According to recent research, bitcoin transactions, which in a way generate a large amount of e-waste, also contribute significantly to this, he informed. The Guardian.
The world is still struggling with a shortage of chips in almost all industries. Wasting semiconductors is the worst possible way to intensify this crisis, but in addition to this aspect, there is also an ecological view of things.
The latest analysis of economists from the Central Bank of Denmark and MIT has shown the impact of bitcoin transactions on increasing e-waste. The study was also published in a journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling.
Bitcoin transactions are expected to generate huge amounts of electronic waste
According to experts, a single bitcoin transaction is supposed to cause an amount of electronic waste, which equals two discarded iPhones. In the case of bitcoin transactions, the problem with increasing e-waste should be caused by special ASIC miners, which have no other use than to perform calculations in bitcoin transactions.
By running algorithms, they help the bitcoin network to work and to extract this cryptocurrency, in which miners earn rewards after extracting one block. However, this process is constantly being improved and miners are replacing previous ASIC miners with ever newer and more efficient units that provide higher performance.
According to researchers Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll, the average lifetime of one such ASIC is only 1.29 years. Because of this, in May of this year alone, bitcoin was to generate up to 30.7 metric kilotons of electronic waste in this way, which is the same amount as the Netherlands, for example.
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In May, however, there were significant fluctuations in the entire cryptomen market, but at the time of the greatest growth at the beginning of this year, bitcoin could thus generate up to 64.4 metric kilotons of electronic waste. However, the rapid replacement of specialized computing technology then also contributes to the global shortage of semiconductors.
Last year alone, about 112.5 million bitcoin transactions were made. By comparison, the year before, 539 billion transactions had been made in financial services in the traditional way. According to the economists behind this analysis, each bitcoin transaction accounts for about 272 grams of electronic waste, which is equal to about 2 discarded iPhones 12 mini.
The problem in this case is with specialized ASIC devices, which, unlike other computer components such as GPUs, have no other use. After using them, the miners replace the old versions with newer ones and the original ones cannot be “recycled” in the same way as with graphics cards.
The solution could be a “proof of stake” system
According to the authors of the analysis, the situation with the amount of produced electronic waste could worsen with a further increase in the price of bitcoin. However, if the whole community wanted to move to a more sustainable mining process, according to the study, it could build on a “proof of stake” system that can soon use ethereum.
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Like bitcoin, ethereum currently operates on a “proof of work” basis, a system in which miners classify transactions grouped into blocks into a publicly available chain (blockchain). However, bitcoin is far from the only cryptocurrency that has received criticism for generating electronic waste.
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One of the other problematic cryptocurrencies is, for example, Chia, which works on the principle of “proof of time and space”. Powerful storage is required to load it. However, this has caused problems for the manufacturers themselves, who have begun to void the warranty on these components if they are used to extract the cryptocurrency Chia. At the same time, however, it also caused a lack of powerful SSDs and HDDs on the market.
Alone bitcoin was also criticized by Elon Musk in the spring of this year because of its ecological side, which, after a big “hype” and the purchase of bitcoin for Tesla, or after the launch of payments by bitcoin for the brand’s electric cars, decided that the carmaker will no longer support bitcoin until it is “greener”. However, this move, in addition to a few supporters, demanded huge criticism from fans of cryptocurrencies and some experts, who tried to refute Musk’s claims with various facts.