In a recent pilot by mobile network O2 and handset supplier HTC the HTC One X+ phones were sold without a charger. In the trial, which started back in October, 82% of those who bought the charger-free handset did not buy a separate charger for it – exceeding O2’s target of 70%.
In what is apparently the first such pilot anywhere in the world, the handsets were supplied with just the USB-to-micro-USB connection. To charge the phone customers could either connect the USB to an existing charger or use the USB lead to charge via another device. If they wanted a charger they could purchase one at cost price.
There are significant environmental savings by not automatically providing a charger and O2 expects the success of the pilot to pave the way for further trials in the future. Within its Think Big Blueprint, O2’s three year sustainability strategy, the company has pledged to supply phones charger-free by 2015. As part of the strategy to help customers be more sustainable O2 is promoting a single charger, selling phones without chargers as standard, and encouraging recycling.
The company points out that there are 30 million new phones sold in the UK each year. If the results of this pilot were repeated with all handsets, there would be 24 million fewer chargers sold annually in the UK – a huge environmental saving. Research by O2 suggests there are as many as 100 million unused chargers in total in the UK that are either duplicates of existing kit or are from old handsets.
Review: The problem of incompatible phone chargers and the environmental impact of redundant chargers has been around for a number of years and one that the EU has tried to address. As you can see from a previous post, O2 has been on the case for some time and is to be congratulated for this current move, which shows what can be done.
The good thing is that it worked. The vast majority of purchasers took the greener option, helped on the way by the fact that if they wanted a charger they had to pay for it. I don’t know if there was any overall impact on cost to purchasers, but the biggest impact is likely to be from simply changing the default action, i.e. rather than automatically supplier charges, just asking people if they want one. It’s simple but effective way to change behaviour and one that can be applied in many ways to promote a more sustainable choice.