Here at Vigilis Tree Shelters, we envision a forestry industry free from plastic waste.
We support the UK’s afforestation efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The importance of tree shelters is well documented throughout the industry and the survival rate of young trees is greatly increased by the use of tree shelters. They protect trees from browsing animals and induce a microclimate inside the shelter to accelerate growth. However, traditional tree shelters are made from polypropylene and, often, tree shelters are not collected at the end of their useful life, thus polluting the environment with microplastics.
Plastic-free and soil biodegradable tree shelters are the way forward to protect both the planet and trees. This is why Vigilis Tree Shelters have been hard at work over the last few years, alongside our partner Biome Bioplastics Limited, to create a sustainable alternative to polypropylene tree shelters.
Research & Development
We have made a significant investment in research and development (over £360,000) and are delighted to bring to market the Vigilis-Bio range of biodegradable tree shelters. They are accredited as soil biodegradable by a third party, OWS (Commercial material under test to soil biodegradable standard ISO 17556 (2-years testing). This testing establishes that the tree shelter material is broken down by the action of microbes commonly found in UK soils and that there are no adverse ecotoxicology impacts arising from such a breakdown.
We initially tested over 750 samples before finalising the Vigilis-Bio formula. Extensive laboratory testing and accelerated weather-aging has been carried out on the tree shelters. Over 2500 hours of weather aging has been tested to mimic 5 years of varying weather conditions. We have tailored the UV package to match typical UK weather conditions.
From Lab to Field
This laboratory work is now being validated in over 70 monitored field trials around the UK – from the top of Scotland to the South of England.
Results from the field trials are promising: Vigilis-Bio tree shelters are performing on par with their traditional counterparts. This summer – alongside our partner Biome Bioplastics Ltd – we visited 9 site trials across the UK to assess the performance of our biodegradable, plastic-free tree shelters. Tree shelters at these sites were planted between 6-18 months ago and have endured real weather conditions. Samples have been sent to a laboratory for mechanical property testing. The results strongly supported our laboratory testing and showed that Vigilis-Bio are strong, resistant and performing as expected.
We will continue to monitor the tree shelters at these trial sites throughout their life. It is expected that after 5 years in situ, they will begin to fragment and fall to the forest floor where microbes and soil bacteria will break them down and ‘eat them’. This soil biodegradation process will take place over a period of 2 years, leaving behind only minerals, water and biomass. This alleviates the need to collect the tree shelters and prevents toxic residues and microplastics from being absorbed into the natural environment.