Forestry Plastic Group

12 July 2021

News release July 2021

When The Forestry Plastic Group last met it discussed several topics regarding the use of plastics in forestry (listed below). The group has several aims:

  • to share good practice in regard to how plastics are used and disposed of correctly.  
  • working to encourage and facilitate both the reuse and the recycling of existing plastic products used in forestry.
  • research and share information on plastic packaging and tree tube alternatives to ensure adverse environmental impacts are reduced and balanced sustainable solutions found. 

Woodland creation can use a considerable amount of plastic such as tree tubes, bags, cell wrappings, ties and information signs. Afforestation is a major way of reducing and reversing negative effects on the environment however there are elements within forestry which can be improved to make the positive affects even more dramatic. As such most of our conversations are around these topics.

Bio-degradable tree shelters - Tree shelters since their concept in the 1980’s have helped to increase the survival rates of transplants. However, once they have served their purpose, they can be difficult to remove and dispose of. The desire for a completely bio-degradable tube has pushed the manufacturers to look at their materials and design new shelters. However, we only have the manufacturers claims regarding each product. Therefore, the group is arranging funding for Forest Research to independently run a trail lasting five years to test the currently available products. This official trial will give valuable data that will help form decision making in the future. However, given the long time-frame required, other organisations are already carrying out their own trials, which makes this group an important information sharing platform.

Collection of old tree shelters – once tree shelters have served their purpose and are collected in, technically they are a waste item and as such need to be treated accordingly. The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) has a project called “Plastic Free Woodlands”and, as part of that, they are collecting and removing used tree tubes from the environment. In order to comply with The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 the YDMT have followed the regulations by completing waste transfer notes and ensuring suitable collection / storage areas. As with all regulations there are differences depending on your business situation, therefore it is strongly advised that you consult the regulations yourselves before transporting and disposing of waste tree shelters. The YDMT are happy to be contacted directly if anyone is unsure of the process.  

Temporary signs – the group discussed the use of temporary signs used during woodland operations. These are often made from corrugated plastic and can be in use for considerable periods of time. At the completion of the operation the signs are either reused if in suitable condition or they have to be disposed of. There are several issues around the use of the signs, one being that not enough of the signs are collected at any one point to make recycling possible. Members of the group have been looking at this issue and are trialling a couple of different products that are easier to recycle. They will report back to the group on this subject in due course.

This update covers only the topics discussed at the meeting, the group intends to explore other forestry plastics in subsequent meetings, such as tree bags. The group is comprised of organisations and individuals with an interest in reducing the use of plastics in forestry operations, it meets quarterly.  This group does not act for or represent the views of all group members. For a full list of members or to discuss any of the above topics please contact Richard Hunter at Confor