The Brief, powered by EHFG — Not so plastic fantastic

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

We all know the feeling. Rushing to work or travelling, you remember to pack everything except for that insignificant but vital tool that keeps our phones, computers, headphones and the rest, charged and connected.

Unable to find someone who can lend us the precise cable we need, a trip to a shop ensues. The end result is that we steadily accumulate a drawer full of largely unused plastic and cable that eventually needs throwing out.

The charger market for phones, laptops and tablets is little more than a cartel and a cynical exercise in moneymaking. There is no good reason why devices should have different and incompatible electric chargers. This is a problem that has been created by tech companies seeing an opportunity to squeeze more money out of customers.

European Commission research suggests that the average person owns three mobile phone chargers, of which they use two regularly. From personal experience, those figures sound like they are on the low side.

Yet it could soon become a problem of the past.

The European Commission’s proposal to force manufacturers to create a universal charger for phones and small electronic devices is long overdue and, indeed, is the culmination of a decade of lobbying by MEPs and Commission officials.

Promising lower costs for consumers and drastically reducing the estimated 11,000 tonnes of waste per year generated by disposed of and unused charging cables, helping the EU to cut high polluting plastic waste and carbon emissions, it is a no brainer.

What the Commission has proposed is that all smartphones sold in the EU must have USB-C chargers. These currently account for about 30% of the charger market but are not used for most Android and Apple phones. If the directive proceeds smoothly, the era of multiple chargers could be over in 2026.

Not surprisingly, Apple is the company that has opposed the single charger the most, arguing that it will stifle innovation.

However, considering that chargers are identical products with the exception of the shape of the last couple of centimetres that go into the device, it’s very hard to take that argument seriously. Chargers are the antithesis of innovation.

However, simplifying the charger market is just one battle in a bigger war. Let us hope that success on chargers gives the EU executive the heart to wage war on the ultimate example of pointless plastic. Next stop: the universal plug.


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The Roundup

Albanian Parliament voted on Thursday in favour of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all parliamentarians, in the hopes of encouraging vaccination uptake.

The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission came together on Thursday  to celebrate the launch of an annual ‘EU Organic Day’, designed to promote organic agriculture to bolster its production and consumption in the EU.

The AS Monaco football club launched its first vegetable garden on Tuesday (21 September), which will be used to feed the players with organic, local and seasonal produce. EURACTIV France reports.

Following a French initiative against the country of origin principle, Ireland is leading a counter-offensive of ten countries that consider the move would disrupt the digital single market.

Ireland has struck a new deal that will pave the way for the export of sheepmeat and breeding pigs from Ireland to China, in a move that has caused consternation among agricultural stakeholders.

Tunisia’s democracy faces its ‘gravest’ threat in the decade since the Arab Spring, opposition and civil society leaders in the country have warned, while the president set out plans to rule by decree and amend the constitution.

Although Germany’s annual harvest and arable farming report was revised at the end of August to take account of the climate crisis, it still includes changes that remain just ‘symbolic politics’ for environmentalist NGOs and organic farmers.

And… with the “historic” German federal election around the corner, stay updated with EURACTIV’s election tracker, run by our reporters on the ground.

Look out for…

  • Meetings of European Parliament committees.
  • High Representative Josep Borrell receives Moldova’s PM Natalia Gavrilita on Monday.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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