European cell phones to get universal chargers

Everyone who has a cell phone has, somewhere, a drawer filled with old chargers from long-gone handsets.

Those days soon will come to an end in Europe, where all the top mobile phone producers have agreed to make all their data-enabled sets use the same chargers.

The European Commission, according to Reuters, announced the pact today. EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen hailed it as a movie that would save thousands of tons of waste each year on the continent. About 185 million new phones are bought annually in Europe and there are about 400 million cell phones total.

While the pact doesn't apply to all phones - those that just accept standard calls and SMS texts can still have any old charger - it's expected that the more expensive and more versatile data-enabled sets will account for nearly half of all purchases next year.

The companies that agreed to the plan are Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Apple, LG, NEC, Qualcomm, Research in Motion, Samsung and Texas Instruments - basically, all the major cell phone makers. And if they're willing to sign a pact for one standard charger in Europe, one might think the U.S. wouldn't be far behind.

"We're assuming this new European initiative will have a knock-on effect globally and manufacturers won't just be doing this on the European market," Verheugen told Reuters

Until that day, you can recycle your cell phone charger (and cell phone, for that matter). Tons of waste is created by electronics each year, and many electronics contain metals and other materials bad for the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.