As It Happens

Too many chargers? This EU lawmaker is pushing for a universal solution

Legislators in Europe are moving ahead with a plan to require a single type of charger for all portable electronic devices, a move that will primarily affect tech giant Apple. 

'One for all,' says Róża Thun, a Polish member of the European Parliament

Polish MEP Roza Thun serves on the European Parliament's Consumer Protection Committee. She wants all personal electronic devices in Europe to use the same standardized charging device. (rozathun.pl)

The move to legislate one type of charger for all electronic devices is both an environmental concern and a way to make life easier for people, according to a member of European Parliament.

"All users, especially of cell phones, demand the harmonization of chargers to facilitate our life," Poland's Róża Thun told As It Happens host Carol Off. "Not to have drawers full of cables, chargers, et cetera that we never use."

On Thursday, legislators laid out a plan in the European Commission, to require a single type of charger across the European Union for portable electronic devices including cellphones, headphones, tablets, handheld video game consoles and portable speakers.

Thun said that the legislation would result in less electronic waste and make life easier — and less expensive — for consumers.

According to the UN's Global E-waste Monitor, Europe ranked first worldwide in 2020 for e-waste generation, with 16.2 kg produced per person annually.

That statistic "is incredible," she said. "And we all struggle ... against climate change and against plastic waste."

The proposal would force manufacturers to use the popular USB-C port to charge devices, which would equalize the charging time and energy used for each device.

The USB-C standard remains the most common connector for new smartphones, other than Apple's iPhone. (Alexander Evgenyevich/Shutterstock )

The European Commission said that a standardized charger will reduce e-waste by almost 1,000 tonnes annually across Europe. Even with that reduction, however, an estimated 10,000 tonnes of waste from larger electronics would still be produced each year.

"One for all," Thun emphasized. "One [charger] will be for all devices."

I hope it will be, so to say, contagious. I hope very much that the rest of the world will do the same thing once the success is known and seen. And surely it will be a success.- Róża Thun, member of European Parliament

Apple resists in favour of its Lightning connector

But Apple, maker of the iPhone and other popular products, is opposed to the move, saying it will stifle innovation.

Over the years, Apple produced different USB chargers varying in size and wattage. Currently, most Apple products use its proprietary Lightning connector, although some iPads and MacBooks use USB-C. 

Android products, produced by Google, use either USB-C ports or its predecessor, the USB Micro-B port.

"We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world," said Apple in a statement to the BBC.

Thun dismissed Apple's claim.

"They have been saying this all the time, that we stop innovation," she said. "Technology changes, and of course, we should ... but that doesn't mean that we must take part in a race in production of electronic waste."

The proposal must be debated in European Parliament and by the national governments of member states. If it is passed by member states, manufacturers would have two years to comply. 

"Frankly speaking, I believe that it will be a great success," Thun said.

"I hope it will be, so to say, contagious. I hope very much that the rest of the world will do the same thing once the success is known and seen. And surely it will be a success."


Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview with Róża Thun produced by Kevin Robertson.


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