A specification released by the International standards and conformity assessment body (IEC) reveals that in the future there may be a single charger type for all notebook computers.

Every year billions of chargers are shipped around the world. Power supplies for notebooks typically weigh 300 to 600 grams and generally they are specific to the make of computer, meaning they will not be compatible with a new notebook or laptop. This means that they are often thrown out with the old laptop. In some cases they can get lost or break, leading to the discarding of perfectly working computers due to one small piece.

It is estimated that the total e-waste related to chargers of ICT devices exceeds half a million tons each year, the equivalent of 500,000 cars.

A new technical specification released by the IEC will allow consumers to use a single external charger with a wide range of notebook computers. This would also make it easier to external chargers to be reused or replaced.

A great step

A single power supply covering a wide range of notebook computers would be "a great step in lowering e-waste and its impact on our planet," says Frans Vreeswijk, IEC CEO and general secretary.

The IEC standards for the universal charger for mobile phones have already been widely adopted by the mobile phone industry. 82% of European Standards are identical or based on this model. According to Vreeswijk, this implementation is already reducing e-waste.

Due to technical realities, the creation of a universal power adapter, which can cover all devices (computers, laptops, notebooks and more) is likely to be a long way from being achievable. However, the IEC solution to notebooks and laptops goes some way to bridging that technical gap.

Vreeswijk commented: "The IEC is all about bringing concrete feasible solutions to the market place. We welcome input from many sides to make our work as broadly relevant as possible."

IEC Technical Specification 62700: DC Power supply for notebook computers, will be available in early 2014.