Plastic tree guards: National Park campaigners call for ban on plastic tree guards

A number of campaigners for National Parks have joined forces for a campaign calling on the use of plastic tree guards to be banned.

Campaign for National Parks, Friends of the Dales, North York Moors Association and nine other National Park Societies are all calling for the ban after the Government anounced it was consdiering banning other types of single-use plastic.

The joint statement says: "We want to see a complete end to the use of single-use plastics in the supply of tree guards (much of which will inevitably become highly polluting micro-plastics) as well as the introduction of more effective controls and auditing in order to require a greater focus on recovering old tree guards and preventing further pollution.”

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A total of 11 out of the 12 National Park Societies in England and Wales have joined Campaign for National Parks, the only independent charity campaigning to protect and improve all National Parks in England and Wales, in calling for National Park Authorities to restrict the use of new plastic tubes for tree and hedge planting in National Parks by the end of 2022.

Plastic tree protectors scattered across the forest floor

The Woodland Trust has already pledged to stop using plastic tree guards on its estate by the end of 2021, while the National Trust has said it will explore, and trial, alternative options. Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust has also embarked on a plastic-free woodlands project to remove redundant plastic tree guards and champion alternatives.

Friends of the Dales Chair Bruce McLeod says: "Society and governments are increasingly calling for a reduction in plastics in the environment. Due to the Climate Crisis and declarations of a climate emergency, they are also calling for an acceleration of tree planting in order to sequester carbon and off-set carbon emissions.

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"We believe that an increase in tree planting should not equal an increase of plastic in the environment.

“Plastic tree guards are a product of the fossil fuel industry, thereby a contributor to global heating. We support the collection and recycling of redundant tree guards. However, the size of that task only serves to underline that we should not add to this waste.

"There must be more accountability for the removal of plastic tree guards once they have served their purpose. Alternative (compostable) guards and methods of woodland creation are increasingly being used; they replace the polypropylene tubes that have a life span of centuries either in dumps, other plastic products or as micro plastics in the ocean and soil.”

Campaign for National Parks Policy and Research Manager Ruth Bradshaw added: "Our National Parks and the Climate Emergency report released last year explored how National Parks were adapting to, and mitigating climate change.

"There are huge efforts underway to do both and it's clear that tree planting has a role to play in this, but the benefits - carbon capture, habitat creation etc. - are undermined when each sapling is surrounded by a new, single-use plastic tree guard.

"Plastic waste is a huge issue in National Parks - from the carbon footprint of making such disposable items to the long-term impact on the landscape of non-biodegradable items.

"Plastic tree guards are part of the problem, not part of the solution and we must treat them as such."