(The Center Square) – After increasing pressure from school groups like the Illinois Parent-Teacher Association, Google decided to extend the life of Chromebooks.
Beginning next year, Google will support Chromebooks released in 2021 and after with 10 years of software updates, and those with older models can opt in for updates. The company also plans to make the devices more energy efficient and easier to repair.
Google’s announcement comes about three years after the company announced that Chromebooks’ extension of automatic support would be extended from five to eight years.
A report issued by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund called “Chromebook Churn” sparked a lot of discussion around the environmental impact and taxpayer costs of expiring Chromebooks in schools.
“Our report found that if Google were to double the life of Chromebooks in use it could actually save Illinois taxpayers $68 million and it would really reduce the carbon emissions that it takes to make these devices in the first place as well,” said Lucas Gutterman, Designed to Last director with PIRG.
Nationwide, the PIRG report found for the more than 48 million K-12 public school students, doubling the life would save $1.8 billion.
School districts were a major reason why Chromebook sales exploded in the latter part of 2020 as remote learning expanded as a result of governors and local officials closing schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic and implementing remote learning. Studies have found the policy has deeply affected student learning.
When technology like Chromebooks reach their expiration date, a PIRG report revealed that only about one-third of electronic waste is properly recycled.
Gutterman said this may be a game changer, but the expiring tablets are not just a Google issue.
“This sets new standards that other companies like Apple and Microsoft should follow as well,” said Gutterman. “We should not be throwing out machines just because the software is no longer supported.”