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One Charger For All Cell Phones
Green Futures, 30 Mar 09
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by Anna Simpson

Could incompatible phone chargers soon be a thing of the past? Not just an irritant to users, the proliferation of different connections – and the assumption that every new mobile phone comes with its own charger – creates a small mountain of redundant manufacture and eventual disposal.

Now 51,000 tonnes of the things from across the world could be saved from landfill every year, thanks to an agreement by a group of 17 major mobile phone companies to roll out a universal charging system (UCS), compatible with most new phones, by 2012.

Led by the Global Systems for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), which includes Nokia, T-Mobile, O2 and Vodafone, it aims to standardise a micro-USB connecting format across the industry.

The device builds on the pioneering ‘universal’ charger already developed by O2 and launched last November. Compatible with Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson phones, it has achieved 3 stars (out of 5) on the internationally adopted common energy rating system for chargers.

The UCS charger is set to get 4 stars. If left plugged in once the phone is fully charged, it consumes up to three times less than an unrated charger. Chargers sold by default with replacement phones currently account for up to 21.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

But, with an estimated 50% fewer chargers being made each year, what will other manufacturers make of the idea? “Accessories like chargers are big business to manufacturers, and they may be unwilling to give up that additional revenue,” says a realistic James Taplin, Principal Sustainability Advisor at Forum for the Future. “Apple, for one, has not yet signed up to the universal charger concept.”

Tempted to do away with phone chargers altogether? Chinese manufacturer ZTE has launched a solar-powered phone that generates 15 minutes of talk time for every hour of sunlight, and M2E Power has announced plans for an integrated microgenerator, which would convert six hours of everyday movement into one hour of talk power.

This piece originally appeared on Forum For The Future

image credit: Paul.J.West/Shutterstock

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Great news. Hopefully we can work on printer cartridges next. I can only assume they represent significantly more waste per annum than cell-phone accessories.

Proprietary and mutually-incompatible standards are the starting assumption in platform design for every field (except sometimes communications). What's the solution for changing this? Legislation? Consumer education?

Posted by: Nick Novitski on 5 Apr 09

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