Plastic Tree Guards – Is There Another Way?

An example of the plastic guard used by foresters

Plastic tree guards have become an integral part of modern forestry protecting young trees from pests and creating a microclimate around each tree to promote healthy growth in the early stages of life. However, as trees mature and become self-sufficient, shelters become redundant. Without clear obligation or incentives to remove redundant tree guards, they are often left to deteriorate on site. If left, redundant guards can cause tree rot (from excessive moisture trapping), bark damage and plastic pollution which creates a multitude of issues for wildlife and the forest ecosystems that support them.

Nicholsons have partnered with the Forest Canopy Foundation (FCF, to support on a national trial of biodegradable tree guards. The research will see a range of newly developed sustainable products installed on trial sites across England. Each product type will be tested in a range of environments for a minimum of 5 years in conjunction with forestry experts. The FCF are also conducting desk-based research to further investigate the environmental strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of each product trialled. This is a vital piece of research to support sustainable development in a sector which currently relies heavily on plastic.


The FCF’s flagship woodland creation project, which will see the planting of 135ha of new woodland at Blenheim Estate, Oxfordshire, will completely avoid the use of plastic tree guards on site. The scheme is the first of its kind to utilise biodegradable guards at this scale and looks to set a shining example for woodland creation in years to come.

Nicholsons installing biodegradable guards


With the expanding Nicholsons Forestry team at the spearhead of Nicholsons ‘Plant the Future’ campaign, we are striving to plant trees, woodlands and forests that all can be proud of. However, despite our best efforts both past and present, we could be in danger of leaving an unwanted legacy in our tracks…

As a business with a clear purpose of driving sustainability and the environment , we would like to encourage all our Nicholsons’ clients to work with us to help tackle this issue head on. We ask you to commit to remove guards from your woodlands once they have served their purpose.


Tree guard recycling is now available here in Oxfordshire with companies such as Agricycle. We have worked out that you can get in a bulk bag either 100 treeshelters OR 300 spirals. The indicative cost is therefore approx. 0.75p + VAT per Treeshelter and 0.25p + VAT per Spiral.

Plastic tree guards can also be re-used. This video shows how liberated tree guards can be modified to enable them to be re-used on future tree planting schemes:

Public funding bodies such as DEFRA and Forestry Commission and the certification body Grown in Britain are making it compulsory to remove plastic from their schemes by year 10 so let’s get used to “doing the right thing”!