by Nicola Abbatt, Tilhill’s Quality & Environment Manager – taken from The Leader Magazine 2020
The focus on the use and disposal of plastics has made us increasingly aware of the use of plastics in forestry operations. Contemporary practices in forestry and woodland management involve elements of plastic use and therefore challenges around waste management.
Tilhill is proactively looking for ways to prevent, reuse or recycle plastic from our operations and are trialing potentially viable alternatives to plastic use. Our aim is to reduce the plastic in our environment, whilst balancing other environmental impacts. Recovering used plastic shelters and tree bags can have biosecurity risks in an environment with increasing pests and diseases. It can also be a logistical challenge. We must ensure that the benefit of our current practice of recycling is not outweighed by the negative environmental impact of lengthy transportation.
A small percentage of the total trees we plant each year are planted with plastic tree shelters. These may be required because prevention by fencing to protect from deer or rabbits is not a viable option. Where we have long
term management of a forest or woodland, we will remove all tubes when they have fulfilled their usefulness in terms of establishment and tree protection.
While the original polypropylene tube (a by-product of the petroleum industry) has many benefits, we have actively been looking for viable alternatives in order to support our clients who wish to go plastic-free and move to a product manufactured from a sustainable resource, with a reduced environmental impact at the end of their life.
To this effect, we have been undertaking trials of the alternatives on offer including cardboard shelters and compostable spirals, with varying and mixed results so far. These trials are still ongoing.
Currently saplings for planting are delivered in plastic bags designed to retain moisture and protect the plants. In order to try and eliminate this plastic element of our business we are working in partnership with Maelor Forest Nurseries Ltd to look for alternative materials when delivering young trees and shrubs. We are therefore starting to trial the use of cardboard for deliveries.
As our trials continue, our plan for the future around our use of plastic is to ensure we remain a proactive, exemplary, and sustainable business which leads in its field.