When we plant a new woodland, the trees we plant are about 2 years old. They’re tiny and a bit stick-like, but this is the ideal age to plant them and it gives them the greatest chance of getting established in the ground and growing strong. However, we have to give them some protection from being eaten by deer and rabbits, so we place a plastic tree tube around them. The tubes also offer them some shelter from the wind and help them to grow upright. But the tubes are plastic, which we’ve never been happy about. 

For years, we’ve been working with tree tube manufacturers, trialling recyclable tree tubes, without much success. The tubes need to be hardy enough to stay on until the trees are established and well out of the way of browsing animals (which is at least 7 years), and some of the ones we trialled degraded before the trees were big enough. 

As there’s been no alternative, we’ve stuck with the plastic tubes used by the vast majority of the Forestry industry. This meant that we are doing probably the most important thing we can to slow climate change and create beautiful habitats for wildlife etc. – planting trees – but we are using thousands of plastic tubes in every new woodland we create. We don’t want to send the used tubes to landfill, because that absolutely isn’t what we do, so to date the tubes have either been left on the trees or on the woodland floor as the trees have outgrown them.

Tree tube on the ground at Shocott Spring

 Tree tube on the ground at Shocott Spring

The great news is we’ve now found a company who will take the tubes and recycle them, so we’re going to make a start on clearing them up from the woodland floor at all of our sites. Also, thanks to our volunteers raising funds for us, we now have a baler. Tree tubes take up a lot of space, and bringing them back to the Millennium Country Park barn to store would have quickly filled up the available space we have. The baler enables us to squish the tubes into manageable bales, which are then collected by the recycling company.

We’re now planning some volunteer days when we’ll be going out into the woods to collect the tubes that are off the trees and we’ll be starting at Shocott Spring next month. We’ve been trying to make this happen for years, and it’s really, really exciting that we now have a solution for what has been the only downside of tree planting.