A single bitcoin transaction generates on average the same bulk of electronic waste as that created by throwing two iPhones 12 mini in the bin.
That’s the suggestion by Dutch Economist Alex de Vries who spoke to ELN about the new research he co-wrote about the carbon footprint of cryptocurrency mining.
“You have to realise the machines that are used to do this mining are highly specialised machines. They are using application-specific integrated circuit chips. And effectively, what that means is that the bitcoin mining machines are hardwired to perform only a single task.”
He added that over time people are constantly developing new and more powerful versions of these machines and they are incentivised to do that because in the end, their biggest cost component is electricity: “Because there’s new generations of these machines constantly coming available, it also results in all generations becoming obsolete very quickly.”
Published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, the study suggests the lifespan of bitcoin mining devices remains limited to just 1.29 years.
The findings show that in 2020, the bitcoin network processed around 112.5 million transactions – that means that each individual transaction equates to at least 272 grams of e-waste.
Mr de Vries said: “You have this rate race of miners constantly trying to develop new and more powerful equipment but at the expense of all the generations that end up in the bin.”