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Google praised for major update to Chromebooks: 'It's really a step in the right direction'

"We are on this disposability treadmill."

“We are on this disposability treadmill."

Photo Credit: iStock

The rapid development of technology is no doubt exciting, but the waste caused by the disposal of outdated or faulty products is becoming a real problem.

According to the Department of Toxic Substances Control, 46 pounds of e-waste — the waste produced from unwanted electronic devices — was produced per person in the United States in 2019, totaling seven million tons. 

Furthermore, the estimated rate of recycling electronic products in 2019 was just 15%, with many devices filling up landfills and contributing to the risk to human and environmental health because of the hazardous materials they contain.

For customers, it's a frustrating story for a different reason. Buying the latest technology isn't cheap, and with cell phones, laptops, and gaming devices becoming outdated in a matter of years, it can be challenging to keep up with the costs. 

Schools, in particular, have trouble updating old computers and often have to make in-house repairs to extend the lifespan of the technology students use.

However, a new announcement from Google can help save customers and schools money and reduce the amount of tech waste that makes it to landfills.

The company's Chromebooks have now received an extra two years of automatic updates from the date of manufacture, allowing users to keep running the device a little while longer instead of investing in a replacement. 

"Starting in 2024, if you have Chromebooks that were released from 2021 onwards, you'll automatically get 10 years of updates," the company revealed in a blog post. 

"For Chromebooks released before 2021 and already in use, users and IT admins will have the option to extend automatic updates to 10 years from the platform's release (after they receive their last automatic update)."

Schools can also take advantage of the Chromebook Repair Program, which can help find parts and offer repairs either on-site or with accredited partners. 

Speaking to Vice, Lucas Gutterman, director of the Designed to Last campaign from the U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups) — which called on improved lifespan for tech products — was pleased with the announcement. However, he noted there is still a long way to go regarding sustainable tech. 

"We are on this disposability treadmill – we're buying more laptops, and phones and tablets and appliances that die, Gutterman said. "It's really a step in the right direction – it just shows Google's leadership in actually making devices that last for as long as possible."

While progress is being made on safe and efficient ways to recycle old tech products, especially batteries, making machines last longer is undoubtedly the best way to reduce planet-harming waste. 

"Can someone explain why we aren't mining our e-waste instead of the planet?" one user recently asked on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Lithium-ion batteries not only contain valuable materials like lithium, cobalt, and graphite that can be reused — preventing the need to mine for new sources — the crushing of batteries in disposal can lead to fire hazards, according to the Environmental Protection Agency

Any product for disposal featuring lithium-ion batteries should be taken to a suitable recycling location or a hazardous waste center. 

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