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24 Apr 2012 10:04:19

Bioplastics offer more sustainable solution for tree planting

Dutch company introduces innovative tree support system that replaces the need for wasteful wooden support stakes

It is widely recognised that reforestation is a crucial aspect of tackling climate change and addressing CO2 balance, but less is understood about the hidden carbon footprint and environmental impact of planting new trees. Tree planting conventionally requires the use of a wooden stake as a growth support. Not only are mature trees felled to produce these stakes, but they are often shipped long-distances for use in planting.

Netherlands-based Natural Plastics has developed a new tree support system that is set to eradicate the wasteful practice of felling existing trees in order to plant new ones and demonstrates the intelligent benefits offered by the rapidly developing range of plant-based plastics.

Natural Plastics' Keeper System uses an underground set of bioplastic anchors and ropes, replacing the need for a wooden support stake. It is an inherently more sustainable solution; the components are fully biodegradable and have been engineered to break down after five years when the maturing trees no longer need support. In addition, when the bio-polymers break down they release nutrients into the soil.

Of course, environmentally sustainable solutions will only become widespread if they are also commercially sustainable. The bioplastic system is also a cost-saving solution for landowners, forestry organisations and councils. The system doesn’t need adjusting or removing as the tree matures and the lack of aftercare significantly reduces maintenance costs. Thousands of stake-less trees have already been planted across Holland, Denmark, Germany, France and Norway using Natural Plastics' innovative system.

Natural Plastics' Keeper System uses Craonyl®, a renewable material based on a bio-resin produced by UK-based Biome Bioplastics. This corn-based resin offers a natural alternative to conventional polymers such as PP, HDPE and ABS and produces naturally opaque, strong and rigid plastics.

The increasing popularity of bioplastic products is partly due to fluctuating oil prices and the crackdown from government legislation on the use of conventional plastics. But the real driver is the rapid development of the technology in recent years. With today's bioplastic technology offering solutions for both long and short lifespan applications, end-users are beginning to understand the intelligent and commercial benefits they can offer.

"The range and capability of bioplastic products is continually expanding, they are already in more places than you might imagine", explained Paul Mines, CEO Biome Bioplastics. "In the next decade we will see bioplastics become part of our everyday lives."

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