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The European Commission’s latest EUROPHYT – Interceptions annual report provides an overview of interception notifications received in 2018 and evaluates the main trends over the period 2013-2018.

This annual report shows that in 2018 there were 1,712 interceptions by Member States and Switzerland due to the presence of harmful organisms, an increase of 16% from the previous year. Despite this increase, there is a reduction of 30 % in the number of interceptions since 2013.

The main non-EU country commodities intercepted due to the presence of harmful organisms were fruit and vegetables, particularly peppers, mango, basil, eggplant, citrus and various gourds. Regarding the organisms, the increase over previous years can be attributed to increased interceptions of Thrips, an increase in nematode interceptions from Belarus and increased Citrus Black spot interceptions from Brazil and Argentina. Regarding commodities, wood packaging material and cut flowers also contributed significantly to the interceptions but with no significant change on previous years. There is also a noted increase in interceptions of seeds imported without required certification.

EUROPHYT- Interceptions is the Commission’s rapid alert system for plant health used by EU Member States and Switzerland. Members use the system to notify the presence of harmful organisms and other plant health risks found in EU-bound consignments during import controls. The system is also an effective policy support tool for risk assessment and risk management. Based on EUROPHYT data, a Non-EU trade Alert List is published each month on the Commission’s Health and Food Safety website.

Research from Swansea University has found how plastics commonly found in food packaging can be recycled to create new materials like wires for electricity – and could help to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the future.

While a small proportion of the hundreds of types of plastics can be recycled by conventional technology, researchers found that there are other things that can be done to reuse plastics after they’ve served their original purpose.

The research, published in The Journal for Carbon Research, focuses on chemical recycling which uses the constituent elements of the plastic to make new materials.

While all plastics are made of carbon, hydrogen and sometimes oxygen, the amounts and arrangements of these three elements make each plastic unique. As plastics are very pure and highly refined chemicals, they can be broken down into these elements and then bonded in different arrangements to make high value materials such as carbon nanotubes.

Research shows black plastics could create renewable energy
Conversion of plastics to carbon nanotube materials (Foto: Swansea University)

Dr Alvin Orbaek White, a Sêr Cymru II Fellow at the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University said: “Carbon nanotubes are tiny molecules with incredible physical properties. The structure of a carbon nanotube looks a piece of chicken wire wrapped into a cylinder and when carbon is arranged like this it can conduct both heat and electricity. These two different forms of energy are each very important to control and use in the right quantities, depending on your needs.

“Nanotubes can be used to make a huge range of things, such as conductive films for touchscreen displays, flexible electronics fabrics that create energy, antennas for 5G networks while NASA has used them to prevent electric shocks on the Juno spacecraft.”

During the study, the research team tested plastics, in particular black plastics, which are commonly used as packaging for ready meals and fruit and vegetables in supermarkets, but can’t be easily recycled. They removed the carbon and then constructed nanotube molecules from the bottom up using the carbon atoms and used the nanotubes to transmit electricity to a light bulb in a small demonstrator model.

The research team plan to make high purity carbon electrical cables using waste plastic materials and to improve the nanotube material’s electrical performance and increase the output, so they are ready for large-scale deployment in the next three years.

Dr Orbaek White said: “The research is significant as carbon nanotubes can be used to solve the problem of electricity cables overheating and failing, which is responsible for about 8 % of electricity is lost in transmission and distribution globally.

“This may not seem like much, but it is low because electricity cables are short, which means that power stations have to be close to the location where electricity is used, otherwise the energy is lost in transmission.

“Many long range cables, which are made of metals, can’t operate at full capacity because they would overheat and melt. This presents a real problem for a renewable energy future using wind or solar, because the best sites are far from where people live.”