New hedge along the old tramway to Roseberry Mine

I have felt uneasy for some time about the prevalence of plastic tree guards.

Tree with tree guard — well past its use-by date.

Their never-ending march seems to pervade into every nook and cranny of our countryside — from our National Parks to motorway verges.

They are supposed to protect saplings from browsing animals and to cocoon them in  a mini-greenhouse.

But are they ever collected after they’ve served their usefulness?

They rarely are, in due course breaking down and degrading into micro-plastics which will eventually find their way into our river systems and oceans.

It was pleasing then to read this last week that the “Campaign by 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 guards1Cnp.org.uk. (2022). National Park campaigners call for a ban on plastic tree guards | Campaign for National Parks. [online] Available at: https://www.cnp.org.uk/news/national-park-campaigners-call-ban-plastic-tree-guards [Accessed 18 Feb. 2022]..

“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.”

The Woodland Trust, which is aiming to plant 10 million trees per year to 2025 have already stopped using plastic tree guards2Weston, P. (2021). Trees should be planted without plastic guards, says UK study. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/24/trees-should-be-planted-without-plastic-guards-says-uk-study-aoe [Accessed 18 Feb. 2022]..

Research has shown that it is actually better to lose a certain percentage of saplings than use plastic guards to protect them. “This is because there are significant carbon emissions from the manufacture of the guards, and they are rarely collected after use, meaning they break down into microplastics, polluting the natural environment and harming wildlife3Weston, P. (2021). Trees should be planted without plastic guards, says UK study. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/24/trees-should-be-planted-without-plastic-guards-says-uk-study-aoe [Accessed 18 Feb. 2022]..

The feature image is a newly planted hedge by the permissive footpath along the former tramway to Roseberry Ironstone Mine. The hedge was planted last week.

Whichever organisation is providing the funding, I assume either the National Park or DEFRA, it seems that it hasn’t yet been told of the campaign.

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