Standardize cellphone chargers, NDP MP urges

NDP MP Glenn Thibeault has tabled a bill to standardize cell phone chargers, but an industry group says that's already on its way to happening.
Standardized cellphone chargers would cut down on electronic waste, NDP MP Glenn Thibeault says as he pitches a private member's bill to Canadians. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Standardizing cellphone chargers would cut back on electronic waste, an NDP MP says, as he pitches a private member's bill to Canadians.

Glenn Thibeault, the NDP's consumer protection critic, says a standard charger for every new cellphone would save on the amount of e-waste Canadians throw out, and save shoppers money.

Thibeault will present a private member's bill that would make that the law in Canada.

A spokesman for the wireless industry, however, says that standardization is already on its way after the European Union raised the issue in 2009.

Thibeault says 14 companies, including RIM and Apple, signed onto the EU agreement to look at using the same style of charger.

"So if they are able to do it in the EU, then you are able to do it here," Thibeault said.

Thibeault says he hasn't met with the manufacturers yet, but has spoken to the service providers, who told him that they're starting to see standardization beginning to take place.

Changing chargers frustrating: Thibeault

Thibeault believes if the bill passes, and with manufacturers already moving to standardize, Canada could achieve it within a year.

Conservative MPs he has spoken to are supportive, said Thibeault, who recently had to replace his BlackBerry Torch with a Bold after dropping the Torch down the stairs in the House of Commons.

Cellphone technology is about 0.3 per cent of e-waste, with the average consumer switching mobile devices every 18 to 36 months.

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"We all have a charger in our car. We all have a charger at home, in our office," and it's "frustrating" for consumers to change them every time they get a new phone, he says.

In the past, Thibeault has tabled private member's bills to create a registry to log concussions and increase education about head injuries in sports, as well as bills to ensure autism treatment is covered by provincial health plans and to limit credit card interest rates.

Bill 'redundant,' wireless industry says

A spokesman for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association says the cell phone industry agreed in 2009 to standardize their chargers in 2012.

"Cell phones are manufactured for the global marketplace – [they're] not country specific," said Marc Choma.

"As far as I know, the global cell manufacturers are on track for 2012. With respect to Mr. Thibeault's bill, while well-intentioned, it is unfortunately redundant in that this issue has already been addressed by the global industry."

Choma and Thibeault both urged consumers to recycle their electronics.