90-120 million… it’s a high number, and it’s the number of trees to be planted each year in the UK between now and 2025. That’s just the UK.
The UK government has committed to planting 30,000 hectares of woodland a year, on public and private land, and there’s woodland planting schemes, rewilding schemes and community projects taking place or planned nationwide. (Although reports in March 2022 show the target was missed, with 13,480 hectares actually planted – one of the main reasons cited was the severity of the winter storms in the UK.)
But young trees need protection. They can’t just be planted and left. Protection from the elements, from wildlife… and 120 million trees is a lot of tree-shelters.
Traditionally, for many years, tree-shelters have been made from plastic. Plastic which is not always recycled – and relies on the human effort of someone collecting it at the end of its life – and plastic which undoubtedly leaves traces of micro-plastics in the environment, and plastic which is a drain on the earth’s resources.
It’s also plastic which is sometime lost due to storm damage and animals etc. and if these plastic tree-shelters are then blown away and land in rivers they can eventually end up at sea, adding to the ‘single use’ plastic pollution in the oceans.
So a few years ago Sirane began questioning whether there was another way. Could we make a plastic-free, sustainable tree-shelter that would do the same job.
What does a tree-shelter need to do? It needs to survive everything the weather can throw at it. Wind, rain, sun, freezing overnight temperatures and more. And it needs to survive, protecting the young tree, for a minimum of three years. And let’s face it, the weather in the UK can be inclement, and changeable…
Our development team looked at the options, looked at the available materials, and at what the requirements of the material would be. And they came up with an answer, that the best way to protect trees would be with a material made from trees, and in particular trees that were grown in a sustainable, managed way.
Cardboard may not seem the obvious choice. After all, cardboard doesn’t really last when exposed to water. But not all cardboard is the same. We’ve taken a very unique cardboard, which is naturally water-resistant. It’s so good at repelling water, that we’ve actually made ice buckets out of the same material.
So this was a great starting point. We had a material which is plastic-free, recyclable and sustainable, which will do the job. Three years is a long-time though, and so we chose to make use of our additional technologies and coat the board with a water-based barrier coating. Still plastic-free, still recyclable, still sustainable… but with added protection for that daily fight against the elements.
We’re now a few years down the line, and the tree-guards we made in the early days are still out there, still surviving, still doing their job. So we now have real-world field-trials, where the tree-guards have lasted the requisite three years.
We even planted a tree in our car park, in an exposed spot, which was easy for us to monitor. More than two years on, it’s weather-beaten but still very much intact, having survived Storm Eunice and Storm Franklin.
We’ve made design alterations along the way, working with industry experts and listening to their feedback to ensure the tree-shelters are the best solution possible.
Traditional tree-shelters would need to be collected in, after approximately three years. So our tree-shelters survive more than three years, what happens to them next? They will eventually break down. There does come a point when they begin to disintegrate… and this gives users an additional advantage. Collecting tree-shelters in is time-consuming and costly and adds to their carbon footprint. These don’t need to collected in at all.
They can simply be left in situ. When they begin to biodegrade they will simply rot away. It’s cardboard after all. There’s nothing harmful for the environment.
There’s an additional benefit that’s worth mentioning, and that’s transport costs. These tree-shelters are supplied flat, they just fold out and clip into place. That means up to 2000 shelters will fit on one pallet, significantly reducing transport costs.
All in all, our tree-shelters offer a truly unique option for anyone looking for a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way of protecting young trees.
Trees protecting trees, what could be a better solution than that… with National Tree Week running from November 26-4 December, it’s the perfect time to try it. Find out more about our product here – or visit our dedicated website, which is www.ecotreeshelters.com