On Thursday, the European Union's executive arm announced that it would be introducing legislation requiring manufacturers to convert to one charger that can be used "for all relevant devices", meaning mobile phones.
"Today, the Commission takes an important step against e-waste and consumer inconvenience, caused by the prevalence of different, incompatible chargers for electronic devices," the European Commission wrote in a press release. "USB-C will become the standard port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles."
Along with the conversion to USB-C, the Commission also plans to end the practice of selling electronics with chargers included. By allowing customers to choose whether or not to buy a charger with their new devices, the Commission hopes to cut down on the production and subsequent disposal of chargers.
According to the release, 11,000 tons of e-waste is produced in the E.U., with €2.4 billion spent annually on standalone chargers.
USB-C is already a relatively common charging option amongst manufacturers. The main company still refusing to get on board is Apple
"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," Apple wrote in a statement.
In its statement sent to reporters, Apple added that it plans to make all of its devices and their use carbon neutral by 2030.
The Commission has been calling on the industry to adopt a universal charger since 2009 when the Commission's Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) led to the number of charging options on the market falling from 30 to 3. Subsequent calls for action were made in 2014 and 2018.
"We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger," Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, is quoted in the release. "This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions."
The conversion to USB-C and the unbundling of chargers and electronics isn't meant to just reduce waste: this law is also expected to prevent companies from manufacturing devices that only fast-charge when using a company charger. Advocates also expect the universality of charging technology to make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions about the electronics they buy through comparisons across brands.
According to the Commission's release, the new law will save consumers €250 million a year (roughly $292 million) in unnecessary charging products.
The law won't come into effect immediately. It is currently awaiting the co-decision of the European Parliament and the Council. If the law is adopted by both, there will be a two-year transition period during which the industry will need to carry out the conversion.