• Client: DG GROW
  • Implementation period: October, 2020 - September, 2021 (Completed)
  • Geographic coverage: European Union

Study supports new policy proposals on unbundling chargers from mobile phone sales – what consumer and environmental benefits could be achieved?

This Impact Assessment study supported the European Commission – DG GROW to assess the economic, consumer and environmental impacts deriving from the unbundling of chargers from mobile phones and other portable devices. The outcomes of the study provided valuable input to the current (as of Sep 2021) EC proposal to revise the Radio Equipment Directive to unbundle chargers from phone sales and harmonise device connector ports to USB Type-C.

This project was a follow-up to the Impact Assessment Study on Common Chargers of Portable Devices that Trinomics and IPSOS carried out in 2019, which concluded that the benefits of a common charging initiative would be enhanced if complementary measures to unbundle (decouple) chargers from phone sales were adopted. This Impact Assessment study carried out a more in-depth assessment of the economic and environmental impacts of policy options for the unbundling of chargers from mobile phones and other portable devices. In particular, Trinomics: (i) updated the stock model it created in the 2019 Impact Assessment study, incorporating new sources and studies that assisted in the refinement of the assumptions made, this model, the TRI-STOCK-CHARGER model, is published on the EU policy modelling database MIDAS; and (2) estimated the environmental impact (on material use, emissions, and e-waste) of different policy options and packages of options for the unbundling of chargers from mobile phones and other portable devices. The estimations of impact were based on modelling and desk analysis of LCA studies on the environmental and other impacts associated with mobile phones, chargers and other small electronic devices. Interviews with manufacturers, NGOs and businesses in the recycling sector supported the work.

The key findings of the work included:

  • The mobile phone market is already moving towards unbundling in many cases, with Apple and Samsung among the largest suppliers already having removed the external power supply (charging) block from the box of some or all their phones
  • An important trade off exists for unbundling with the environmental gains (reduced emissions and waste) and some possible consumer savings, offset against increased costs for charger manufacturers and loss of consumer convenience.
  • The case for change is finely balanced and is, in the end, a political decision on priorities.

The project was conducted between October 2020 and May 2021 by Trinomics in collaboration with Economisti Associati and Ipsos (lead).

Final report download link https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/90e9a07d-1054-11ec-9151-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-PDF/source-229339792s://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/90e9a07d-1054-11ec-9151-01aa75ed71a1/language-en