Tubex has embarked on a research project with a leading Dutch research institute to explore the science behind biodegradable tree shelters. The findings of the project will be used to optimise the performance of Tubex Nature tree shelters.
By working with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, which specialises in bio-based research, Tubex aims to ensure that biodegradable shelters perform to the same high standard as recyclable plastic equivalents.
“It is vital that biodegradable tree shelters break down quickly and effectively – but not until they have served their function. In most cases, biodegradable tree shelters need to maintain structural integrity to protect saplings for up to five years,” explained James Taylor, Product Line Director at Tubex.
The Wageningen project is testing different biodegradable materials to find the most suitable formulation to achieve this balance between long-term protection and effective biodegradation. With a range of additives at its disposal, the team at Wageningen can modify the material it receives from Tubex, to assess how the biodegradation process can be accelerated or slowed down.
Wouter Post, Researcher & Project Leader at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, explained:
“Each sample is put under rigorous testing to assess its tensile strength, to show it can withstand the elements and won’t break too easily in the field. Samples are also placed in WUR’s temperature-controlled climate chambers to observe their relative speed of biodegradation, as they disintegrate into smaller pieces.
“It’s important that we test the materials both on the soil and in the soil, as shelters will undergo several stages of biodegradation before they break down completely. By exposing different samples to the same soil, environmental conditions, and duration, we can advise Tubex on the optimum formulation.”
Tubex will take the findings into field tests, after which – where necessary – the ‘recipe’ for Tubex Nature will be further refined to give customers the best possible performance, before decomposing at end-of-life.
“Biodegradable tree shelters are one of the most exciting developments in our industry, but given the average lifetime of a shelter, it is still ‘early days’ in terms of perfecting the science,” confirmed James Taylor.
“Our partnership with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research gives us access to some of Europe’s finest experts in the use of bio-based materials. Their work has already provided a huge level of insight to help us make Tubex Nature even better, and we look forward to continuing this fruitful relationship.”