The Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has given the green light to an environmentally friendly standard for a universal charger for laptops and other portable devices. The new standard provides for improved energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and is expected to lead to significant reductions in e-waste.

The new international standard–officially known as Recommendation ITU-T L.1002 "External universal power adapter solutions for portable ICT devices"–was developed by the ITU standardisation expert group for ICTs, the environment and climate change, ITU-T Study Group 5.

According to ITU, the standard aims to cover the widest possible range of ICT devices for portable use within defined voltage and power ranges. It firstly describes the UPA basic configuration, consisting of a power adapter block with a detachable input cable and a detachable output cable to the ICT device. Then, different general requirements for the UPA and their interfaces, including cables, connectors, voltage, current, ripple noise, energy efficiency, no load power, safety, electromagnetic compatibility, resistibility and eco-environmental specifications are defined. All the requirements have been set with the aim to reduce the e-waste and increase the usability. This Recommendation intends to complement and to make use, as far as possible, of what [is] defined in IEC/Technical Specification 62700/Ed1.

One million tons of external power supplies are manufactured each year, according to the ITU. ITU-T L.1002 specifies principles for the eco-design of laptop chargers to reduce no-load power consumption five times lower than the norm. When multiplied by the millions of such chargers in use this will greatly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by these devices. The applicability of the charger to multiple devices, as well as design principles for the efficient use of raw materials, will greatly increase their lifetime and reduce the e-waste resulting from their disposal.

ITU-T L.1002 builds on ITU standards providing universal chargers for handheld devices such as mobile phones (ITU-T L.1000) and stationary devices such as xDSL modems (ITU-T L.1001) first adopted by ITU members in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

"e-Waste has grown into a significant challenge to environmental sustainability," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. "The L.1000 series of standards will contribute to the achievement of the targets set out by Goal 12 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns."

"The ITU-T L.1000 series of standards will assist in meeting the e-waste target of the Connect 2020 Agenda, a shared vision for the sustainable development of the ICT sector adopted by ITU Member States in 2014," said Ahmed Zeddam, Chairman of ITU-T Study Group 5. "This agenda includes the commitment of the ITU membership to reduce the volume of redundant e-waste by 50% by 2020."

ITU-T's work on e-waste is driven by Resolution 79 adopted by the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (Dubai, 2012). Resolution 79 calls on ITU-T Study Group 5 to develop international standards, methodologies and other publications relevant to the reduction and responsible management of e-waste.