Cardboard Tree Guards Leads Charge to Plastic-Free Work Package

Already in the vanguard of environmental and ecological practice – colleagues from BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman and Morgan Sindall working on the Fusion joint venture – are breaking new ground in working towards creating a “plastic-free package of work.”

The goal was a challenge set by Alex Towse, now Fusion’s Pre-Delivery Lead, on its enabling works central contract with HS2 – designing and construction, landscape planting and habitat translocation across over 100 kilometres between Birmingham and London.

As part of reputedly the largest environmental project in UK history, Fusion’s Environment & Sustainability team is delivering a host of sustainable measures, including becoming the first HS2 contractor to achieve the PAS2080 (Carbon Management in Infrastructure) standard.

En route to meeting Alex’s challenge, Fusion has departed from using plastic tree guards in favour of ones made of corrugate and card pulp (above left), secured by eucalyptus poles (above right) – both fully decompose, so leave no waste that needs collecting post-season.

Bianca Rees, Fusion’s Sustainability Manager, led the charge, by conducting a global search for plastic-free products that could be sourced ethically, then negotiating with colleagues to support this innovation.

She said: “There was some internal resistance initially, but after a site visit with our tree specialist (Landscape Manager Stewart Lowe), it was clear to see the products we sourced would enable the trees to grow healthily in a range of conditions, as they would using plastic guards. Our procurement team proved open to innovation.”

Stewart Lowe said: “We’re really pleased to be trialing the new biodegradable tree guards and the feedback from contractors has been very positive. As well as dramatically reducing the amount of plastic we’re using on site, they also make it much quicker to plant the trees. We’re planting over a thousand trees at Decoypond Wood in Buckinghamshire – one of the early sites using the guards.”

Alex Towse added: “The transition from plastic to biodegradable products is real game changer, particularly given the high priority we are placing on sustainability, showing that this measure can deliver economic alongside environmental benefits.

“It is important that market-leading organisations adapt their business practices to ones which safeguard the planet, to help undo and prevent the damage that has been caused, for the benefit of future generations.

“There will also be an enduring legacy from this: we will be using biodegradable guards and ties as we plant millions of trees across the route.”

Further benefits include no compounds need to be set up to recover the guards and ties, plus a reduced health and safety risk to employees moving across unmade ground to make collections.

HS2’s Senior Environment Manager Kat Stanhope: “Plastic free tree planting is a significant step towards meeting HS2 environmental and sustainably targets and is an innovative solution to reducing waste.  It is a great idea and Fusion have worked closely with their supply chain to ensure that the product meets stringent environmental and ethical guidelines. We are keen for other contractors across HS2 to follow Fusion’s example in their planting designs.”

107 – kilometres of land being enhanced and protected by Fusion
7 million – the maximum number of trees that could  be planted across the area central route
4,000 – the number of tree guards used in the last planting season, October 2018 to March 2019
39,000 – the number of tree guards that will be used in the next planting season, October 2019 to March 2020
50p – cost saving from not having to remove plastic tubes and ties from every tree planted
208kg  – carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) saving by switching from plastic to biodegradable products.*
3,582 tonnes – potential amount of carbon saved by 7 million trees

*Based on five colleagues travelling 112 miles sharing two vehicles, recovering 4,000 plastic tree guards in 6 x 12metre yard skips