How far behind will we be?
The European Union has just taken the tech industry one big step forward in the direction of sustainability. Back in March of 2009, the European Commission demanded that phone makers develop a universal charging solution. Fourteen manufacturers signed on, and over the course of this year the new standard mobile charger will gradually start to appear across the 27 EU member states. This is an unprecedented move in industry history.
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There are currently half-a-billion cell phones in the EU, and more than thirty different chargers on the market. This necessitates chargers bundled with every new phone, which turns the OLD chargers into waste that ends up dumped in landfills or the backs of closets. The EU estimates roughly 51,000 tons-per-year of e-waste are a result of this process.
This same problem exists in the United States. We have an incredible variety of devices and an equally diverse selection of chargers. My friend's Samsung phone won't take juice from my Motorola charger. BlackBerries have their own proprietary chargers. Ditto Apple. A universal charger doesn't just make life more convenient for everyone- it eliminates the need to bundle a charger with every gadget sold. That saves the manufacturer money, saves you storage space, and saves the environment from a whole lot of nastiness.
So how far away from the U.S. is a similar move? Apple, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, Qualcomm, Research In Motion (RIM), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Texas Instruments all signed on over in Europe. That doesn't leave a whole lot of big US players out. HTC and LG are really the only two unrepresented. It doesn't look like there would much corporate opposition to such a plan coming stateside. Maybe we're all just waiting to see how it works over in Europe.