EU plans to standardise mobile phone chargers to crackdown on waste

Phone makers such as Nokia and Samsung may have to offer European customers a standardised mobile phone charger from 2017, after MEPs approved a new EU directive designed to crackdown on "unnecessary" waste last week.

The changes, announced by the European Commission (EC), form part of an update to the Radio Equipment Directive.

Rapporteur Barbara Weile, the MEP guiding the legislation through Parliament, said the move would reduce unnecessary waste and cut costs for consumers and industry. She added: “This serves the interests both of consumers and the environment… It will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually.”

According to the EC, more than 185m mobile phones are sold in the EU. Most use different chargers, even if they are the same brand but a slightly different model. Often the charger will then become redundant after the user changes phone.

It is estimated that there are some 30 different types of charger currently on the market, the EC said.

Draft law specifies that the ability to work with common chargers will be an essential requirement for new radio equipment. The European Commission will decide the specific types of radio equipment will have to meet this requirement.

Yet to be formally approved by the Council of Europe, Member States will have two years to put the rules into their national laws. Manufacturers will have an additional year to comply.

In 2009, phone makers such as Apple, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and ALCATEL signed an agreement to make their phones compatible with a single, USB style charger.

European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani said: “Today’s vote [13 March] sets the basis for further innovation and growth in the area of mobile communications. The sector continues to show enormous potential.

“Reliable and fast wireless communications are essential to the on-going revolution in manufacturing, services, education, entertainment and practically all spheres of life. And there is more: the new rules enable us to introduce a common charger for mobile phones and similar devices.

“This is very good news for our citizens and for the environment.”

Liz Gyekye

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