Bitcoin mining generates 30.7 kilotons of e-waste per year, enough to cover Luxembourg’s e-waste five times

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  • Bitcoin is estimated to generate annually electronic waste equivalent to more than five times that of Luxembourg.
  • Experts also suggest that the leading cryptocurrency uses the same amount of electricity per year as Norway’s 5.5 million people.
  • According to studies, there are two ways to make Bitcoin more environmentally friendly.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have often been criticized for the amount of e-waste they generate and the energy consumed in mining coins. Now a report has attempted 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 per year. This is enough to cover Luxembourg’s electronic waste five times. For context, Luxembourg has a population of 6,00,000 people.

Cryptocurrencies have long been criticized for their inefficiency. This is especially true for major cryptos like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Although solutions are being developed to reduce the environmental impact of mining these cryptocurrencies, there is still a lot of progress to be made in this regard.

Why is Bitcoin mining so “dirty”?

Bitcoin uses a ‘proof of work‘ (PoW) to regulate the creation of new blocks and the general state of the cryptocurrency. ‘Proof of Stake‘ (PoS), on the other hand, uses a simple mechanism to lock coins into a smart contract and owners place their wagers through a lottery system.

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For a long time, PoW has been criticized for consuming more power than PoS. PoS evangelists also claim that it’s more secure than PoW – essentially, there’s little reason not to use PoS.

Estimates
suggest that Bitcoin uses around 127 terawatt hours of energy each year, which is equivalent to Norway’s total annual electricity consumption.

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

It’s not just excessive energy consumption that’s the problem

Bitcoin’s more demanding mining process also impacts mining equipment, which is why it generates so much e-waste.

Bitcoin miners use application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) to mine cryptocurrency, as they are custom-designed for this purpose. However, ASICs have a short lifespan – around 18 months – and once obsolete they become electronic 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 switch to PoS from the current PoW mechanism – experts suggest that this will result in significant savings in terms of power consumption.

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

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