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Bitcoin Has a FUD Problem, Not an E-Waste Problem

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Never argue with a Nocoiner. Nature abhors a vacuum, and debunking the latest Bitcoin FUD will just create a void to be filled with even dumber FUD. Our most recent example comes from an employee of the Dutch Central Bank, who claims that Bitcoin mining generates as much electronic waste as the IT industry of the Netherlands. Supposedly, every Bitcoin transaction produces as much waste as two iPhones thrown in the trash.

The study estimates Bitcoin’s annual e-waste at 30.7 metric kilotons, a number calculated by adding up the weights of various ASIC miners on the market and assuming they get junked every 18 months. Bitcoin miners use custom chips known as ASICs, or application-specific integrated circuits, which can’t be reused for any other purpose. As opposed to something like Ethereum, which uses GPU miners that can be reused to play video games. According to the paper, a Bitfury B8 accounts for 37 kilograms of e-waste, and a Bitmain Antminer S15 is responsible for 7 kilograms. 

37 kg is the shelf weight listed on the manufacturer’s website, but the vast majority of that mass is made up of fans and heat sinks. The actual silicon ASIC that does the mining is less than a square centimeter in size. The mining machine needs a massive amount of hardware to dissipate heat from such a tiny chip. 

Fortunately, heat sinks and fans are not application-specific. And unlike iPhones and iPads, Bitcoin hardware manufacturers sell tools to desolder and replace just the chip, so the rest of the rig can stay in use even after the ASIC has burned out. The only e-waste comes from the silicon chips weighing milligrams apiece.

Even though Bitcoin mining generates a negligible amount of trash, the topic of electronic waste is still a global concern. For example, solar panels are one of the largest electronic devices in use, designed to maximize surface area to capture solar energy. Once they enter a landfill, photovoltaic cells can leach heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium into the environment. 

This is why you should never argue with a Nocoiner. You can’t reason with someone who has no principles.

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Elaine is an editor at the BTC Times. She is also a columnist at Bloomberg Opinion and a software engineer at Global Financial Access.



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