Ekaterina Chukaeva – Communities involved in Bitcoin should fix the problem of e-waste by replacing proof-of-work mining with a more sustainable alternative, Alex de Vries, a researcher behind the recent analysis “Bitcoin’s growing e-waste problem,” told Sputnik.
Earlier in the week, the report, authored by de Vries and his colleague, Christian Stoll, revealed that a single bitcoin transaction can generate the same amount of electronic waste as putting two iPhone 12 minis in the trash. The paper says that the lifespan of any bitcoin mining device is only 1.29 years, which makes it a huge e-waste problem.
“The community surrounding Bitcoin should be the main responsible one. They can fix the problem by replacing the proof-of-work mining (that’s causing all the energy and hardware waste) with a more sustainable alternative. These already exist, but nobody is working to implement it in Bitcoin yet,” de Vries, who has a vast background in financial economics, said.
According to the report, the annual e-waste generation of bitcoin adds up to 30.7 metric kilotons as of May 2021, and this level “is comparable to the small IT equipment waste produced by a country such as the Netherlands.” The paper revealed that on average the world-famous cryptocurrency generates some 272 grams (10 ounces) of e-waste per transaction on the blockchain.
De Vries believes that governments will be increasingly aggressive toward bitcoin in the future if the problem is not addressed and the situation worsens.
When asked about restrictions on bitcoin mining, De Vries raised the example of China, which has recently banned cryptocurrency mining.
“While this will not make cryptocurrency mining go away, being cut off from the cheapest sources of electricity can result in less energy consumption and electronic waste — as miners will have less money to spend on resources,” he said.
According to de Vries, policies may also target investments in bitcoin specifically.
“If you restrict this, the value of Bitcoin should go down. Again, it’s the same as before — as a lower Bitcoin price will also mean less money going to miners (and hardware + electricity),” he explained.
Speaking of whether economies worldwide may start rejecting bitcoin for everyday transactions, de Vries suggested that the study may play a role in their considerations.
“Earlier this year we saw Tesla accepting Bitcoin transactions at some point — only to stop doing so after 50 days because of environmental concerns. The World Bank also rejected helping El Salvador implement Bitcoin, citing environmental concerns in part. We may see similar things happenings elsewhere as environmental concerns continue to mount,” he concluded.
Earlier in September, El Salvador made headlines when it became the world’s first country to accept cryptocurrency as legal tender. The government hoped thus to save millions a year on fees charged for sending money from abroad, predominantly from Washington. Reacting to the decision, the World Bank rejected a request from the Latin American nation to help with the implementation of the cryptocurrency as legal tender.