Friends of the Dales staff, trustees and volunteers recently came together for a day to remove some 2000 redundant plastic tree shelters from a private woodland near Long Preston in the Yorkshire Dales. A worthy (and wet!) endeavour, since without radical changes to the way we plant trees, the two billion plastic shelters that are already polluting the environment and damaging ecosystems will have multiplied to become an insurmountable 3.5 billion by 2050.
Friends of the Dales Vice President Mark Corner bought the woodland of 45,000 sapling trees 10 years ago, with each tree protected by a ‘photo degradable’ shelter. None of the degradable shelters have perished and so now they must all be removed by hand to ensure the trees remain healthy and significant microplastic pollution of the soils, becks and rivers is mitigated.
Mark said: “There is an industry tendency to automatically opt for the use of plastic tree shelters, which is encouraged by conditions stipulated in the grants offered for woodland creation. These state that the shelters must be removed and recycled when no longer required, which can be up to 10 years after planting, and provide money to so this within the up-front payment. However, there is no effective enforcement of this requirement.
“Although shelter removal is very satisfying, it is slow, hard, dirty work. I estimate that to remove all 45,000 shelters would require around 250 working days for one person.”
The attractiveness of a tree shelter that does not require removal and recycling is obvious, as is the idea of a fully compostable material that breaks down completely into non-toxic components. Yet, for the current time, with neither readily available and the mainstream ‘default’ being to use tree shelters, the legacy of plastic in our countryside not only continues, but is being added to daily.
To find out more about our campaign against single use plastic tree shelters visit: Living Woods
If you are part of group or an organisation and would like to bring together around 12-20 individuals to take part in a tree shelter removal team build activity please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note, approximately three miles of walking is required and the removal of the shelters involves bending and kneeling. All equipment is provided.
Photo: A Friends of the Dales volunteer removing a plastic tree shelter by Victoria Benn