VOLUNTEERS helped Plastic-Free Dalgety Bay remove around 500 tree guards that would have "polluted our woods for decades to come".

The clean-up on Sunday took place in the St Bridget's Kirk and Braefoot area and they also removed general litter, plastic bottles and cans.

Kim Blasco, from Plastic-Free Dalgety Bay, said: "Tree guards are yet another largely avoidable plastic item.

"Once the trees they are protecting grow too big for them, the plastic guards split and fall away and end up polluting our environment.

"Most of the organisations that use them don’t take responsibility for removing them once this has happened, so they just persist in the environment for decades or more.

"There are alternative solutions – after all, we didn’t always have plastic tree guards.

"Overplanting or planting thorny plants around them are two possibilities, but a massive cultural change is needed if we are to go back to these methods.

"Hopefully, events like Sunday’s will raise awareness and sow the seeds of change."

There were 15 volunteers who helped tidy up and he continued: "We collected approximately 500 plastic tree guards that would otherwise have polluted our woods for decades to come.

"We also collected other litter and plastic bottles and cans for recycling.

"If you lined up all the tree guards we collected end to end, they would reach from the Earth to the Moon – at least that’s what it felt like when I was loading them into the car for uplift by the FCCT (Fife Coast and Countryside Trust) litter team!

"It took three trips."

The tree guards that are still in good condition can be re-used while others will be disposed of by FCCT.

"Most of them are still in my garage, " explained Kim. "We'd love to recycle everything but there are limits.

"Ultimately, with all the talk about tree-planting to reduce or absorb carbon in the atmosphere, it's not much use if you're encasing them with something made from fossil fuels!

"I'm sure work is being done at some level to address that but you still see thousands and thousands of them, they're everywhere.

"Tree guards have almost become part of the landscape that people don't notice them any more but when you start looking you see the scale of the problem."