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Will a Common Phone Charger Help Curb E-Waste?

Jan. 28, 2020
The EU wants to help curb the world’s e-waste by dusting off a 10-year-old initiative that would require tech manufacturers to come up with a single charger for all mobile devices.

The days when you had to double-check that you had the right phone charger before walking out the door of your home or office could be numbered. In January, members of the European Parliament urged the European Commission to push technology makers to adopt a single, universal charging method.

According to the BBC, the European Commission has been campaigning for a single charging method for the past decade. Ten years ago, there were 30 different types of chargers on the market, it says, and that number has since been reduced to three.

According to the New York Times, the proposal has been promoted not only as a matter of convenience, but also as a way to reduce electronic waste. “We are drowning in an ocean of electronic waste,” said Roza Thun, a member of the European Parliament from Poland. “Demand grows and with it waste and exploitation of natural resources.”

Not Their First Rodeo

In 2009, Apple and 10 other tech giants (among them Nokia and Samsung) signed a memorandum of understanding, pledging to provide micro-USB compatible chargers for consumers. “However, Apple took advantage of a loophole that allowed manufacturers to continue using their own chargers if they offered an adaptor,” BBC reports.

When that agreement expired in 2014, device makers went their separate ways, the New York Times reports. “Lawmakers then introduced a similar effort to re-establish a voluntary standard for a single charging port for all smartphones,” the publication continues. “But that initiative was never adopted, in part because it failed to guarantee interoperability between devices such as speakers and keyboards with smartphones.”

More to Come

Right now, iPhones are charged with lightening connector cables while Android devices rely on USB-C and micro-USB cables. According to the BBC, European regulators will vote on the matter at some point in the future; Apple says the proposed regulation would stifle innovation and be disruptive to consumers.

“If the regulator enforces its proposed regulation, Apple devices sold in Europe would be required to have a new charging method,” BBC reports. “It is likely Apple would then adopt USB-C, considering the company's 2018 iPad Pro ditched Lightning in favor of the technology.”

Another possible option would be to remove charging ports and cables entirely and use wireless charging instead. The majority of newly-manufactured Android phones already feature USB-C ports. A common kind of charger could also reduce consumers’ cost because devices could be sold without a dedicated charger.

About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.

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