Novel type of biodegradable tree shelter begins UK-wide field testing and initial commercial sales ahead of COP26

25 October 2021
Novel type of biodegradable tree shelter begins UK-wide field testing and initial commercial sales ahead of COP26

Biome Bioplastics and Suregreen have begun large scale UK-wide field testing and initial commercial sales of their novel biodegradable tree shelters. The development of these biodegradable tree shelters aims to tackle one of the forestry industry’s plastic pollution challenges and support the UK’s afforestation efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

The commencement of field testing comes as the UK prepares to host the long-awaited United Nations’ COP26. To achieve its carbon neutrality targets by 2050, the UK government has pledged to more than double tree planting rates, with an ultimate target of 30,000 hectares per year, equivalent to 90-120 million trees planted. Yet, while tree shelters are essential to protect saplings and help them grow safely, they are not collected at the end of their lifetime, already leading to an estimated 2,500 tonnes of plastic ending up annually in the natural environment after use.

Lab testing has demonstrated that the novel solution, made of Biome’s proprietary bioplastics material and manufactured by Suregreen, performs as well as conventional tree shelters. However, unlike their traditional counterpart, they do not need to be collected for disposal at the end of their useful life. Instead, soil bacteria completely break them down over several years, leaving behind only CO2, water and a few naturally occurring minerals. Accelerated weather ageing assessments have also demonstrated that the product can protect trees for the first four to five years of their lives and will only start to break down after five to seven years.

Earlier this year, the two companies announced the successful completion of the project’s feasibility study. The biodegradable tree shelter project has also received additional funding from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund. The partners will now monitor the performance of some 40,000 shelters at more than 40 sites with selected customers to ensure high sapling survival rates in forestry conditions over the next few years. In parallel, early adopting customers can now purchase the shelters from Suregreen under the “Vigilis Bio” brand.

Commenting on the project, Paul Mines, Biome Bioplastics’ CEO, said:
“As one of the companies recognised by the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, we’re committed to helping the UK achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This extensive field testing is the next step towards commercialising the novel tree shelter, and we’re looking forward to seeing our lab results validated in real-life conditions. Bio-based and biodegradable plastics can perform just as well as their oil-based counterparts, but without damaging the environment.”

Tim Oliver, Technical Sales Manager at Suregreen, added:
“Without the help of tree shelters, between 25-90% of newly planted trees are likely to perish or be damaged to the extent that they are of no potential commercial value. We’re happy to produce a highly functional product to support the UK’s afforestation efforts without costing the earth. The necessary lab and outdoor tests have shown successful results. Now is the time to see the biodegradable tree shelters at scale in the real world.”