The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) published a new standard this week detailing the specifications for a single laptop charger compatible with a wide range of notebooks. While there's no legal mandate for companies to follow the spec, the announcement paves the way for universal notebook chargers, bringing a massive reduction in e-waste with it.

Lost chargers are connected to 500,000 tons of yearly e-waste, says the IEC

The power adapter charging one notebook will often be incompatible with the next, and, according to the IEC, lost chargers can lead to discarded computers that are otherwise perfectly usable. The commission estimates that approximately 500,000 tons of waste from information tech each year can be traced back to chargers. In response, the new specification will make for new chargers that are environmentally sound, reliable, and easy to reuse or replace.

The move can be seen as a necessary, if belated, step forward toward creating standards for power consumer technology of all stripes. While discussions have been had for years about creating universal chargers for mobile devices, the EU pushed hard on manufacturers earlier this fall to make that a reality. The IEC also acknowledged that it may be some time before such standards are fully applied, but it's using its expertise to make universal charging happen sooner rather than later.