How to reduce bitcoin’s e-waste footprint

E-waste is the world’s fastest-growing waste stream, up 21% between 2014 and 2019 to 53.6 million metric tons, according to the United Nations. Less than one-fifth of that is recycled, and many of the metals and chemicals contained in e-waste are harmful to human health. Bitcoin’s growing appetite for new hardware is also contributing to the global shortage of semiconductor chips, de Vries said.

The solution to bitcoin’s e-waste footprint is the same as that of its carbon footprint: A new approach to mining that isn’t based on the idea of bigger-is-better. Ether, a competitor to bitcoin, is on the cusp of transitioning to a new mining method called proof-of-stake which is far more energy-efficient than the proof-of-work principle used by bitcoin and can be performed on regular computers. If bitcoin made a similar switch, it could dramatically cut its e-waste—but as long as prices as rising, it’s unlikely miners will want to rock the boat.

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