(The Center Square) – A new report has found that the millions of taxpayer-funded Chromebooks that flooded schools during the pandemic are being discarded because of their expiration dates.
Chromebooks were an affordable way to help educate students during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they weren’t programmed to last. Chromebooks have a built-in “death date,” after which software support ends. Once laptops have “expired,” they don’t receive updates and can’t access secure websites.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund shows replacement parts are both expensive and hard to obtain. In numerous cases, replacement keyboards would cost around $90, roughly half the cost of most Chromebooks. As a result, schools are now tossing the devices, creating a massive amount of electronics waste.
Author Lucas Gutterman said if Google extended the lifespan of Chromebooks, it would save Illinois taxpayers a lot of money.
“If Google doubled the life of Chromebooks in Illinois, it could save schools and taxpayers $68 million,” said Gutterman.
Nationally, it could save $1.8 billion and have the environmental impact equivalent to removing 900,000 cars from the road for a year, he said.
There is legislation at the Illinois Statehouse in House Bill 3601 which would give schools the tools, information and parts they need to repair their broken laptops.
Google has not yet said they are onboard with extending the life of Chromebooks beyond what they’ve already announced.
“We’ve worked diligently with our 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,” the company said in a statement to The Verge. “We also are always working with our device manufacturing partners to increasingly build devices across segments with post-consumer recycled and certified materials that are more repairable, and over time use manufacturing processes that reduce emissions.”
When technology like Chromebooks reach their expiration date, the PIRG report said only one-third of this electronic waste is properly recycled.
“We can’t afford to stay on the disposability treadmill,” said Gutterman. “For the sake of Americans’ wallets and America’s environment, all tech devices should last longer.”