The Woodland Trust has pledged to end the use of new plastic tree shelters from its sites by the end of the year – and is encouraging others to follow suit.
The charity – which hopes to plant 10 million trees each year to 2025 – has spent the past two years carrying out rigorous trials of plastic free alternatives which will be scaled up dramatically by the end of 2021.
Woodland Trust chief executive Darren Moorcroft said: “By committing to go plastic free in terms of the use of tree shelters, we are set to be the trail blazers in this field and catalysing a permanent change to the tree planting world.”
Without protection from rabbits and deer, young trees didn’t stand much chance, said Mr Moorcroft. Plastic guards had long been the first port of call due to their longevity. But they didn’t biodegrade and were not environmentally friendly.
He added: “We all need millions of new trees, want to turn the industry on its head once and for all and we have the chance to finally solve this puzzle through new sustainable approaches to tree establishment.”
Although the Woodland Trust currently removes the plastic tubes from its sites and recycles them, the charity has been working hard for some time to find long term, effective alternative products.
The research has seen a huge trial of plastic free alternatives at the trust’s Avoncliff site in Wiltshire where it has closely monitored closely the effectiveness of plastic-free tree protection.
Alternatives range from innovative products made from cardboard to one made from British wool and is totally biodegradable. It says this option has some “significant sustainability credentials” and would establish a new market for wool.
The trust is also working with academic partners at the
Plastic Waste Innovation Hub at University College London.
It says it is determined to understand the full life cycle impacts from such products to ensure its approach to tree protection is sustainable.