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Time to skip the free chargers – for the sake of the environment

When I was cleaning my study, I took the opportunity to collect all the mobile chargers, and it became quite a pile. I found 27 chargers in various cupboards and drawers – and I’ve still given away, misplaced or recycled a number of chargers over the years.

The explanation, of course, is that I have received a new charger every time I have bought a new mobile phone, tablet, wireless speakers – or any other gadget that can be charged.

When rechargeable small electronics made their breakthrough, it was perfectly reasonable for manufacturers to send chargers with their products. Then, 20 years ago, almost all manufacturers used their own technical solutions, and it was necessary to get a new charger every time. However, this problem has disappeared. Nowadays, almost all manufacturers use the same standard charger – and nowadays almost all consumers own at least one such charger.

In light of this, the EU made an important decision this summer. All mobile phones, tablets and similar gadgets sold within the Union must be able to be charged with a so-called usb c charger. A few days ago also clubbed European Parliament Act. In practice, this is a decision that only affects the iPhone, since all other manufacturers have been using the usb c chargers for a long time.
The EU took the lead, and now we see how other countries can follow suit. Recently, we have been able to read that USA, Brazil and India may be about to make similar decisions.

A common standard because charging is a big win for us consumers, because we don’t have to have different chargers for different gadgets. Another advantage is that it becomes easier to share chargers with friends and colleagues.

The decision also makes it easier for creative developers to come up with innovative chargers. For example, I myself recently invested in a compact travel charger that can charge my laptop, my tablet and my mobile at the same time. Avoiding the computer manufacturer’s big charging lump is for me a big advantage – in a small way.

The big point of the decision, however, is about something more important. It’s about the environment. My 27 remaining chargers are far from alone. According to EU statistics we throw away around 11,000 tonnes of chargers unnecessarily – every year. What a huge waste!

But about the environmental gain to become a reality, mobile phone manufacturers must stop shipping unnecessary chargers with all new gadgets – and they could do that already today. Even if the EU rules do not come into force until 2024, there is no reason to wait.

Some manufacturers have already started, and if everyone chose to skip the chargers, it would not only mean a reduced need for energy, plastics, metals and minerals to manufacture chargers. It would also make the cartons smaller and lighter – which reduces transport emissions.

Of course, we’re not saving the environment by skipping mobile chargers, but it’s still a step in the right direction. And I actually think most consumers would appreciate it if manufacturers stopped shipping unnecessary chargers. Personally, in any case, I feel no need to get charger number 28.

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