Finding Plastic-Free Alternatives to Protect Young Trees


Saplings should be planted without protective plastic guards, according to an environmental impact study led by UCL researchers.

Young trees are usually planted in plastic tubes to protect them from being eaten by animals, but these plastic guards often break down into harmful microplastics.

Manufacturing the guards also contribute to a range of environmental impacts, including fossil depletion, climate change and land use.

For the study, published in Science of the Total Environment, researchers carried out a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), where they compared the environmental impact of planting trees with and without shelters, also looking at the different types of shelter available. An LCA is a cradle-to-grave analysis to assess environmental impacts associated with all stages of a tree’s life. The work focused on the UK, but the results and conclusions are valid for other temperate oceanic regions.

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