Bitcoin mining produces each year around 30.700 tons of electronic scrap. A study developed by data scientist Alex de Vries estimates that this is an amount of electronic waste to that generated in a year by a country like the Netherlands in mobile phones, personal computers and printers.
Each transaction made in Bitcoins generates on average 272 grams of electronic waste
The research concludes that, on average, each transaction in cryptocurrencies generates 272 grams of electronic scrap. An iPhone 13, by comparison, weighs 173 grams. According to the data collected, computers used for Bitcoin mining become obsolete very soon. On average, these devices have a life expectancy of only 1.29 years.
To this material expense should be added the high energy consumption involved in mining Bitcoins. In fact, according to a study by the University of Cambridge, Bitcoin mining uses 101 TWh (terawatt-hours) every year. This means more than the energy consumed by the Philippines in the same period (93.4 TWh) or Kazakhstan (91.7 TWh).
Generally, when analyzing the environmental impact of Bitcoin, its high energy consumption is always discussed. Tesla, for example, stopped accepting Bitcoins as a payment method due to Elon Musk’s concern “about the increased use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions”. He cited coal in particular, “which generates worse emissions than any other fuel”.
But, experts point out, there is a link between the high energy expenditure of Bitcoin mining and the generation of electronic scrap. In order to reduce electricity consumption, Bitcoin miners use application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), a type of specialized and more efficient processors. However, once depreciated, they cannot be reused for other tasks and quickly become waste.