Biome Technologies plc (LON:BIOM) Bioplastics division has announced the start of a project to develop and test a new generation of biodegradable tree shelters made from the Company’s bioplastics. The project has been awarded funding of £58,843 from the Government-backed Innovate UK agency.
Tree shelters are used to protect young trees and bushes from predation by animals. They are a well-proven and economic route to limiting losses in the first 5-7 years of a tree’s life. Traditionally made from oil-based and non-biodegradable plastics, it is believed that the majority of such shelters are never collected at the end of their life and litter the landscape with large and small plastic pieces. Plans to significantly increase tree planting as part of the UK’s push to net zero emissions will exacerbate these problems.
The objective of this feasibility project is to develop and manufacture prototypes of a novel bio-based, biodegradable tree shelter. These shelters will be designed to provide protection to growing trees, not hinder growth as trees reach maturity and biodegrade if not collected. The prototypes will initially be subjected to laboratory testing in accelerated ageing conditions.
This three-month project is being undertaken in conjunction with Suregreen, a leading manufacturer of tree shelters. Suregreen’s team has extensive experience in the manufacture and sales of tree shelters and will involve its forestry customers in product assessment.
The project will draw on advice from Dr Robert Elias of the Biocomposites team at the University of Bangor. Dr Elias has experience in forest industries and particular expertise in bio-based polymers and natural anti-bacterial additives.
The project is funded by Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund (SBRI Phase 1) that seeks, following COVID-19, to demonstrate the impact and potential of a clean growth led recovery and transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Should this initial feasibility project prove successful, the Company may apply for further funding from SBRI Phase 2 in early 2021. It is envisaged that subsequent funding would be used to conduct extensive field trials.
Paul Mines, Biome Technologies’ Chief Executive commented:
“This project is an exciting step towards supporting tree planting in a sustainable manner. Some 15 million tree shelters are already used in the UK each year and we are delighted to help Suregreen re-invent a product for this sector.”
John Warner, Suregreen’s Managing Director commented:
“We are really excited to be working with an industry-leading company such as Biome Technologies to explore practical ways of utilising the latest bioplastic materials for the benefit of the environment, the climate and the world. We know what essential features and attributes a tree shelter should have through the development of our existing Vigilis range and look forward to applying that knowledge to this new type of tree shelter which will facilitate the huge tree planting programs that our future demands.”
Innovate UK Executive Chair Dr Ian Campbell said:
“In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation. The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy. Biome Technologies’ innovative biodegradable tree shelter project, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development. Each one is also helping to realise the ambitions of hard-working people.”