The amount of electronic waste generated by the Bitcoin network is comparable to the amount of discarded electronic equipment in a small country like the Netherlands, a study published by the academic journal Resource, Conservation and Recycling states.

Fast facts

  • According to the paper, a Bitcoin mining machine can lose 35% of its profit potential after three months, less than one-third of the average lifespan; the machine can lose about 80% of its profit potential after a year. 
  • Bitcoin’s annual e-waste generation adds up to 30.7 metric kilotons annually. That’s a comparable amount to the small IT and telecommunications equipment waste produced by a country like the Netherlands each year, the study said.
  • The study assumes that Bitcoin mining equipment will become e-waste when it can no longer be profitable. The authors calculated the number of miners eliminated in the entire network based on the computing power, Bitcoin prices and energy costs.
  • The study suggests switching to a proof-of-stake network may be the best and most energy efficient way to reduce the e-waste generated by mining.
  • The first author of the paper is Alex de Vries, founder of Digiconomist, a platform dedicated to studying the environmental impact of Bitcoin. He is also a data scientist who serves the Netherlands’ central bank.
  • Last week, cryptocurrency mining rig manufacturer Canaan Inc. revealed its strongest-ever quarterly sales results. The company makes the Avalon series of Bitcoin rigs. Its total computing power sold hit 5.9 terahashes per second previous quarter, up 126.9% year-on-year and up 200% from the first quarter. The company said the significant growth is mainly due to strong market demand that has driven the increase in machine sales.
  • The soaring demand for mining hardware competes with other industries for scarce chips. The paper pointed out that producing 1 million popular mining machines, Antminer S19 Pro, requires a quarter of the combined annual production capacity of Samsung and TSMC (the only company that can mass produce chips in the 7-nanometer field) to meet the needs of Bitcoin miners.