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We Need Volunteers

Singleton Forest

Our campaign to create more awareness on plastic tree guards takes a hands-on approach in March 2022.  In partnership with Forestry England we are organising a clean-up of old tree guards which are littering an area of Singleton Forest. Our trustee, Chris Steibelt, explains why we’re doing this here. Read the press release regarding plastic tree guards here. We need volunteers. Best estimates are that these were originally installed 20 years ago and should of course have been removed and recycled as soon as the trees no longer required their protection. As happens all too frequently, they were overlooked and now present a hazard to our environment.

We need volunteers to come along and support us on Saturday 26 March from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm to clear this area.

The location details are:

The site is accessed from the A286 via a tarmac road that leads to the IGAS oil well. It’s 0.8 mile from the top of Cocking Hill on the A286 heading South or 1.5mi from the bus stop in Singleton on the A286 heading North. There’s no signpost and the traffic flows quick quickly down that section.  There is room for parking opposite the IGAS site entrance at the top of the tarmac road on Forestry England land. The area where we will be working is grid ref SU884153/ What3Words: fewest.reduction.detect

Equipment: Forestry England will supply high viz jackets so all you will need is a pair of gloves. There’s some bramble covering the ground, so do make sure you have suitable footwear too.

If you would like to help play a part, please message us or contact us using the above contact button.

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Ban Plastic Tree Guards 

National Park campaigners call for a ban on plastic tree guards as Government considers banning other types of single-use plastic 

Friends of the Dales Chair Bruce McLeod clearing plastic tree guards from the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Campaign for National Parks, Friends of the Dales, Friends of the South Downs and nine other National Park Societies have joined forces to call for a ban on plastic tree guards. Chris Steibelt, Trustee of Friends of the South Downs, is leading this project for us and tells us here why we have decided to launch this campaign.

The campaign coincides with a Defra call for evidence over problematic single-use plastics – which the National Parks campaigners have responded to, highlighting the ongoing issue of plastic tree guards. 

“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),” says the joint response, “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.” 

Eleven 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 & Wales, in signing a joint statement (see full text below) urging National Park Authorities to restrict the use of new plastic tubes for tree and hedge planting in National Parks by the end of 2022.  

It follows a commitment from The Woodland Trust to stop using plastic tree guards on their estate by the end of 2021, and efforts by the National Trust to explore, and trial, alternative options – moves supported by National Park Societies and Campaign for National Parks. Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust is 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. 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.” 

Full statement: 

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. However, we believe that an increase in tree planting should not equal an increase of plastic in the environment.  

We believe that the current practice of using plastic tree guards in woodland creation is unsustainable. 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.  

Major tree planting organisations such as the Woodland Trust have decided to cease using plastic when planting by the end of 2021. We support this sea change in our relationship to single use plastics, woodland creation and the natural world. We support the campaign to reduce single use plastic in our National Parks and the landscape.  

In an unprecedented show of unity, and supported by the Campaign for National Parks, National Park Societies throughout England and Wales call upon the national park authorities to radically reduce the blight of plastic tree guards in our precious and protected landscapes. Further, we challenge National Park Authorities in England and Wales to make a similar pledge to that made by the Woodland Trust in 2021: to restrict the use of new plastic tubes for tree and hedge planting within the National Parks by the end of 2022.  

Signed:

Friends of the Dales, Friends of the South Downs, Snowdonia Society, North York Moors Association, Exmoor Society, Brecon Beacons Park Society, Friends of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Friends of the New Forest, The Broads Society, Friends of the Peak District, Dartmoor Preservation Association and Campaign for National Parks 

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Tree Guards: Protectors or Polluters?

Chris Steibelt, Trustee, is heading a new project and tells us why Friends of the South Downs have decided to launch this campaign

It’s more than likely for this to be a common sight in our countryside in the coming years as the UK Government sets ambitious targets for planting as many as 3000 hectares of woodland per annum. That’s a good thing though, isn’t it? Tree planting forms a key part of our goal to reach net zero carbon emissions in the next three decades. We all love trees!

Chris Steibelt and Lottie

Our enthusiasm at Friends of the South Downs for this ambitious government initiative is tainted just a little. Most planted saplings need some form of protection from rodents and deer in order to survive until they are well established. The common solution is to use a tree guard. These need to be durable and translucent for at least five years and the most cost-effective solution to date is those made of plastic. The good news is, technology has advanced and not all that plastic is fossil fuel based. Today, many products made with UV stabilised polypropylene which is generally recyclable. How could this be a problem?

All too often, tree guards are left to deteriorate

The problem: our countryside is already littered with redundant tree guards. We also have the prospect of another 9 million being added each year! In our haste to plant trees it seems we haven’t really thought hard enough about who will recover the guards and who will bear the cost.  

At Friends of the South Downs, we want to create more awareness on this issue and explore the options. We have decided to launch a new campaign, as inspired by the fantastic work of The Friends of the Dales, not to stop the use of tree guards, but to:

•             Increase public awareness both within the South Downs National Park and nationally

•             Call for greater accountability for removal of redundant tree guards – you put them in, you take them out!

•             Lobby tree planting organisations to use alternative methods

•             Work with the South Downs National Park Authority to introduce regulations within the Park covering the use of tree guards

•             Encourage greater use of bio compostable tree guards

•             Organize collection days around the South Downs National Park to remove redundant tree guards

Otterburn, 2019. The Friends of the Dales with Plastic Free Skipton. Tubes reused by Skipton Town Council

We’d like to hear your views. Have you come across areas of woodland with disintegrating tree guards? Please send us your photos and location (OS grid ref/ What3words / WhatsApp – share your location). Would you and your family be willing to help us on a collection day? Please drop us a line using the Contact Us button above or share to our Facebook page.

Chris Steibelt

Trustee