Bitcoin mining generates 30.7 kilotons e-waste annually – enough to cover Luxembourg’s e-waste five times

  • Bitcoin is estimated to annually generate e-waste equivalent to over five times that of Luxembourg’s.
  • Experts also suggest that the top cryptocurrency uses the same amount of electricity annually that Norway’s 5.5 million population does.
  • There are two ways to make Bitcoin more environment-friendly, according to studies.

Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, have often been criticised for the amount of e-waste they generate, and the power that is consumed in mining coins. Now, a report has tried to quantify just how harmful Bitcoin mining is to the environment.

According to a study by
StockApps.com, Bitcoin mining generates 30.7 kilotons of e-waste annually. That is enough to cover Luxembourg’s e-waste five times. For context, Luxembourg has a population of 6,00,000 people.

Cryptocurrencies have long been criticised for being inefficient. This is especially true of major cryptos like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Although solutions are being worked on to reduce the environmental impact of mining these cryptocurrencies, there’s still a lot of room for progress in this regard.

Why is Bitcoin mining so ‘dirty’?

Bitcoin uses a ‘proof of work’ (PoW) mechanism to regulate the creation of new blocks and the overall state of the cryptocurrency. ‘Proof of stake’ (PoS), on the other hand, uses a simple mechanism to lock coins in a smart contract and owners make their stakes via a lottery system.

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For long, PoW has been criticised for consuming more energy than PoS. The PoS evangelists also claim that it is more secure than PoW – essentially, there is little reason to not use PoS.


Estimates
suggest that Bitcoin uses approximately 127 terawatt-hours of power every year – that is equivalent to the entire annual electricity consumption of Norway.

Even on a per-transaction basis, Bitcoin mining is expensive – mining a single coin of BTC consumes 707 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is 11 times that of Ethereum.

It’s not just excessive power consumption that is the problem

Bitcoin’s more-demanding mining process also has its impact on the mining equipment, which is the reason it generates so much e-waste.

Bitcoin miners use application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for mining the cryptocurrency, since they are tailor-made for this purpose. However, ASICs have short lifespans – at about 18 months – and once they are obsolete, they become e-waste.

What can be done to reduce Bitcoin’s environmental footprint?

There are two possible ways to help reduce Bitcoin’s impact on the environment.

The first solution is to transition to PoS from the current PoW mechanism – experts suggest this will result in significant savings in terms of energy consumption.

The other solution being suggested is adoption of a pre-mining mechanism that coins like XRP use. This system would allow for algorithms to mine new coins instead of generating them on demand. This, experts believe, will reduce the need for high-end mining equipment and thereby help reduce e-waste.

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