Electronic Waste: According to a report by the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) Education Fund, Chromebooks, the inexpensive computers that run Google software, generate a lot of electronic trash.
Many US schools have purchased Chromebooks for kids to use for remote learning since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Compared to MacBooks and other premium laptops, Chromebooks are far less expensive. However, the report claims that three years later, those Chromebooks are approaching their end of life, creating more e-waste.
According to US PIRG’s analysis, the estimated 31 million Chromebooks sold globally during the pandemic’s first year were responsible for about 9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. According to the analysis, doubling the software lifetime for Chromebooks would be equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road and saving taxpayers $1.8 billion.
According to the report’s author, Lucas Gutterman, “Really, this is an industry-wide problem, and Google has the opportunity to lead on sustainability by making Chromebooks last longer.”
The tech giant is working with its “hardware partners to increase the years of guaranteed support Chromebooks receive, and since 2020, we now provide eight years of automatic updates, up from five years in 2016,” a Google spokesman told Insider. Additionally, we continuously collaborate with our partners in the device industry to manufacture devices across all market segments using certified post-consumer recycled and recycled materials that are easier to repair and, over time, manufacturing techniques that produce less emissions.
According to the spokesperson, “regular Chromebook software updates every four weeks add new features and improve device security, allowing us to continuously iterate on the software experience while ensuring that older devices continue to function in a secure and reliable manner up until their hardware limitations make it extremely difficult to provide updates.”
The report also emphasises how difficult it may be to locate replacement components for Chromebooks made by various manufacturers, including HP.
The research uses the Dell 11 3100 Non-Touch Chromebook and the Dell 11 3110 Non-Touch Chromebook as two examples of how the bezels, or the plastic border surrounding the screen, are created differently and are incompatible.
According to Gutterman, the lack of compatibility makes purchasing new laptops more expensive for schools, which must fix parts on various models.
The study discovered that HP’s website only lists two parts for a $250 Chromebook 11a and excludes parts for fixes like replacing cracked screens and keyboards. The article notes that HP’s accessories are pricey and that “the combined price of these parts is more than half the cost of a new laptop.”
The paper calls on Chromebook makers like HP and Asus to make replacement parts more accessible so that more repairs are possible, as well as for Google, which creates the operating system for Chromebooks, to extend software support to make Chromebooks live longer.
Neither HP nor Asus reacted right away to Insider’s request for comment.
According to the US PIRG analysis, “Going forward, these companies should design Chromebooks to last by improving device durability, repairability, and sustainability.”
Insider quoted Gutterman as saying, “We just can’t afford to keep churning out technology at this rate, whether it’s Chromebooks, laptops, or phones.”
The ramifications of doing this correctly, according to Gutterman, “are really big.” “We have seen an increase in 1:1 programs, where schools provide laptops for every student. When you have this many devices provided to students across the country, finding a balance between use and sustainability is key.”