Image: Karolina Grabowska (Pexels)

The EU successfully reached a deal to make USB-C a common charger for smartphones and other electronic devices earlier this month, something that European lawmakers believe should significantly reduce the electronic waste associated with the production, transportation, and disposal of chargers. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Bernie Sanders are now calling on the U.S. Commerce Department to do the same, having written a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo yesterday that asks the department to develop a strategy to require a common charging port across all mobile devices. USB-C is not mentioned in the letter, as the senators seem to be seeking a broader strategy that would allow for a new standard to be developed.

“Year after year, Americans pile our outdated chargers onto landfills while we shell out more money to tech companies for new ones,” Markey said in a statement to The Verge. “This waste is driving consumers up the wall, and it’s driving our planet deeper into a climate crisis. I’m asking the Department of Commerce to follow the lead of the European Union and look into solutions so that we can save our money, our sanity, and our planet.”

In the letter, the senators argue that proprietary chargers, like Apple’s Lightning ports, create unnecessary amounts of e-waste and impose financial burdens on consumers upgrading devices or who own multiple devices from different manufacturers.

Unlike the EU law, the senators are not requesting that the Commerce Department codify USB-C as the universal charging standard. Rather, their request to create “a comprehensive strategy” is more broad, leaving room for the department to develop its own standard. Following the EU mandate, critics argued that the rule would stifle innovation and inhibit smartphone manufacturers from advancing faster charging standards in the future.

Source: The Verge

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  1. So after thinking about this for a while, following the EU decision:

    If I were a lobbyist for the phone industry - I'd be shouting "What about".

    All those other cordless devices, with the plethora of chargers, that aren't being mandated. Wireless mice. Cordless shavers. Bluetooth speakers. Wireless earphones. Tablets. Laptops. Battery power stations. Adult toys. Battery operated power tools. Golf carts. Electric cars.

    Now, USB-C is a nice standard, but it's hardly one size fits all. If you are mandating for one industry - why not all of them? Phones are a large industry, but it's hardly alone in promulgating a bunch of random chargers and by and large it's actually done fairly well in self-regulating itself.

    Just think about power tools, to pick one single example there - I have more different chargers and batteries, even from models made from the same company... it's ridiculous. I'd love to have a 12, 18, 40, and 80V Li-Ion battery standards (and chargers) that worked in every cordless drill, saw, or other power tool. But it won't happen.

    My second argument is that the phone industry already had settled around a standard: Qi, and only after doing so did they drop the requirement that you had to have a wired charger and stop including them with the product. So making a wired standard is pointless. And if I were Apple, I would strongly think about having the "courage" to just drop the wired port all together - they have had all the bits in place to make it redundant to wireless technology for years now, and the port in my iPhone largely just acts as a lint trap any more.

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