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Pulling the plug on e-waste: EU proposes USB-C for all devices

USB C

The European Commission, which is the executive body under the European Union (EU), is planning to force smartphone and electronics manufacturers to fit a common USB-C charging port on all devices, according to the proposal that EU commissioner Thierry Breton revealed in a press conference. The rules are being proposed with the intention to reduce electronic waste. If all such devices are USB-C supported, it will allow people to reuse the chargers and cables they already have with newly bought electronics. 

Apple will likely be the most impacted by this move, as all its products use the proprietary “Lightning” connector instead of the USB-C—used by most Apple competitors. However, Apple warns that these rules would negatively affect innovation: “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” the giant told the BBC, adding that by 2030, it aims to make each Apple device and usage carbon neutral.

Aside from phones, the rules will also apply to devices such as headphones, portable speakers, tablets, handheld video game consoles, and cameras. As part of the waste-reduction move, manufacturers will also be forced to put their fast-charging standards out of order and inform customers about the charging standards supported by a particular device. Also included in the proposal is that customers will be able to buy devices without a new charger being included.

Further, the proposals only pertain to devices using only wired chargers, Breton said, adding that “there is plenty of room for innovation on wireless.” According to the Commission spokesperson who spoke to The Verge, a USB-C port is only mandatory for devices that use a cable for charging. However, if a device charges exclusively via wireless, like Apple’s reportedly “portless” iPhone, it doesn’t require a USB-C charging port.

The EU has been pushing for a common standard for over a decade now, with the research conducted by the Commission’s estimating that more than 11,000 tonnes of waste is generated per year from disposed of and unused charging cables. Around 420 million mobile phones and other portable electronic devices were sold last year in the EU. According to the research, the average person has around three mobile phone chargers, of which they use two regularly.

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