THE Woodland Trust has pledged to end the use of new plastic tree shelters and replace them with more sustainable materials such as cardboard.

The charity, which hopes to plant 10 million trees annually to 2025, has been carrying out trials of plastic-free alternatives over the last two years, and their use is to be scaled up by the end of the year.

The research has seen a huge trial of plastic-free alternatives at the Trust’s Avoncliff site in Wiltshire where it has monitored the effectiveness of the plastic-free tree protection.

Ian Stanton, head of sustainability at the Woodland Trust, said he wants the charity's sites to become the 'hub of innovation' on the subject.

“We have been trialling a wide range of alternative plastic free products across a number of sites within our estate for some time and new innovative products are being added to these trials all the time. Now it’s time to step up innovation on this with our plastic free pledge,” he explained.

“Through these trials we are identifying products that are suitable to be scaled up across our estate. This, combined with innovative processes that avoid the need for tree tubes at all, will enable us to go plastic free from the end of this year and we are funding research to find viable alternatives.”

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The Trust’s focus is to remove any need for tree tubes, plastic or otherwise implementing a range of techniques that afford sustainable solutions to tree protection.

Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: “As one of the nation’s largest tree planters, 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.

“We know the importance of planting trees – they are the natural solution to the climate crisis, soaking up CO2 and delivering oxygen, whilst combating the nature crisis by creating new habitats. But the stark reality is without tree protection, young trees don’t stand much chance. Across the sector, plastics have long been the first port of call turned to as the option due to their longevity and ability to protect the saplings from predators.

“But of course, they don’t biodegrade and are not environmentally friendly. 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.”

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