Charging up the fight against e-Waste

Why on earth are there so many different kinds of mobile phone chargers?

The question comes to mind whenever your mobile device buzzes its “low battery” message and you can’t find your charger. Frantically, you survey colleagues, bystanders – anyone to see if they have a charger you can use. Finally you find someone with a charger. But it won’t work with your phone.

There are about as many types of chargers as there are phones, which means trying to borrow a charger is a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack. A pain? You bet. However, there are more serious implications: like any electronic device, cell phone chargers are contributing to the growing problem of e-Waste.

Despite regulations and efforts to reduce or remove hazardous substances from electronic components, there are still thousands of dangerous elements in everyday electronic products that are disposed of improperly. Batteries, monitors – even the smallest circuit boards – require specialized disposal techniques to avoid contaminating the air and water with dangerous pollutants. In countries like China, improper e-Waste disposal has dangerously tainted rivers, ruined groundwater and decimated agriculture.

The good news is that electronics disposal is getting better. New regulations require that e-Waste recyclers follow sustainable practices when disposing of electronics. Even in the safest disposal, however, the non-biodegradable parts –such as plastic– go to landfills.

To this end, a consortium of 10 mobile phone manufacturers and chip producers signed an agreement to establish a standard for mobile phone chargers. The agreement—currently aimed at the EU market—sets micro USB (the small, rectangular connection that many new devices use today) as the standard connector used in phone chargers. This increases the interoperability amongst devices and chargers, allowing consumers to reuse recharges with new phones. It also allows companies to focus on the efficiency of a single standard, hopefully increasing the energy-efficiency of chargers over time.

The homogeny of phone chargers illustrates how sustainable goals and business goals frequently achieve the same ends. The manufacturers in this consortium benefit from reducing their carbon footprint while at the same time reducing R&D and manufacturing costs through standardization.

About Melissa Alvares

Melissa was the head of Softchoice’s campaign marketing team, responsible for providing organizations with information on the latest technology trends, insights and solutions from the desktop to the data center.