STRAIGHT FROM RECORK.ORG:Natural cork, the kind used in wine closures, is a perfect choice for recycling. It’s 100% natural, biodegradable and renewable. There is no reason natural wine corks should end up as garbage when recycled cork can become flooring tiles, building insulation, automotive gaskets, craft materials, soil conditioner and sports equipment.
What is ReCORK by Amorim? ReCORK (previously ReCORK America) is a recycling program sponsored by Amorim of Portugal, the world's largest producer (3 billion annually) of natural cork wine closures; their U.S. sales affiliates, Amorim Cork America and Portocork America; and SOLE. Who is Amorim? Amorim is the world’s largest producer of natural cork wine closures and a leading advocate for the sustainable use and well-being of cork forests throughout the Mediterranean Basin. Who is SOLE? SOLE is a leading manufacturer of footwear products with distribution throughout North America. SOLE launched its line of supportive, do-it-yourself, heat-moldable footbeds in 2001. Millions of happy feet later, SOLE extended its expertise in foot health and comfort to a line of Premium Performance Socks. In 2008, SOLE launched its Platinum Sandal, which offers unrivaled orthopedic support and comfort. During 2010 SOLE will launch its line of Casual Sandals with 30% cork (by volume) in the midsole and footbed. These will use virgin cork until SOLE's infrastructure for using ReCORK's cork is in place. SOLE expects to use it for the Spring 2011 models. Stay tuned for more cork products. REI, Red Wing Shoes, Zappos.com and thousands of specialty retailers around the world carry SOLE. SOLE products are used by dozens of professional teams in the NFL, NBA and MLB as well as "UltraMarathon Man" Dean Karnazes, renowned mountaineer Ed Viesturs, Team Nike Adventure Racing, and the US and Canadian military. What are the goals for the program? The goal of ReCORK is to find reuse applications for as many corks as possible - and in the process, help communicate the value cork forests play as a sustainable natural resource that must be protected. Natural cork wine closures, unlike plastic or aluminum, are ideal for recycling and can be remanufactured into shoe components, flooring, gaskets, bulletin boards, sports equipment, and even used as a soil amendment in compost. Natural cork is also a valuable source of CO2 retention. How does the program work? The basic concept is rather simple: you collect the corks, give them to us, and we find reuse applications through recycling. Where do the corks come from? We receive quite a few corks from winery tasting rooms, quality control laboratories and bottling lines. In addition, we get used corks from restaurants, hotels and spas, wine bars, school recycling programs, airlines, wine competitions, and thousands of folks just like you who understand recycling is the right thing to do. Do you pay for corks? No, not at this time. Do you pay for shipping the corks? It all depends on the quantity of corks we are working with and your location. We will send a pre-paid mailing label for you to mail us a (used) cardboard box with a minimum of 15lbs. of corks. For larger partners, if you can fill one of our 30,000 cork collection bins, we will take care of the shipping cost to our processing center. We are building a national collection network as we speak. Your web site lists two types of collection options: “Public Collection Partners” and “Recycling Partners.” This seems confusing. What is the difference?“ Public Collection Partners” are collection sites where the public is encouraged to stop by and drop off their natural corks. Retail stores and recycling centers fit this description. “Recycling Partners” are locations that don’t collect from the public, yet provide corks from their own business activities. Restaurants, wine bars and winery tasting rooms fit this category. That said, don’t be surprised to find some of our participating partners say OK if you want to give them your corks. Find a partner in your area Where do the used corks end up? At the present time, corks are received at our storage facility in Napa, California and Great Falls, Montana, where they are consolidated. The corks are sent to SOLE's factories in Asia to be used in products and packaging. How will the corks be used? SOLE has successfully developed a unique cork blend that enhances the material properties of their footwer products, and replaces some of the petroleum-based material with natural cork, a sustainable alternative. Other products by SOLE, ReCORK and other brands are in the works now. What do you mean by “Upcycling”? This is a term coined by another recycler that we like. For us it means extending the useful life of a natural cork through recycling and reuse. In our case, we are turning spent wine corks into new footwear. What a perfect use of a natural product like cork. Where are the products available? The target is to have footwear products containing the used corks collected from this program in the marketplace during the first half of 2011. Please visit SOLE's website to find out more about their cork footwear. Why recycle wine corks? There are 13 billion (yes, billion!) natural cork wine closures sold into the world market each year. At present, the majority of them end up in landfills instead of in reuse applications. While natural cork will degrade over time, landfill capacities in most communities are at a critical state. Cork is ideal for recycling. It is biodegradable, renewable, energy efficient, sustainable, and 100% natural. How many corks have you collected to date? Since mid-2007, the program has collected millions of corks. Please see the ticker in the header for an updated amount of corks collected. Are all wine closures recyclable? No. Not all wine closures can be recycled. Plastic and aluminum closures are difficult if not impossible to recycle. While some alternative closure manufacturers are beginning trial recycling efforts, natural cork is still the easiest and best material to recycle. It takes less CO2 to manufacture, less CO2 to recycle, and a whole lot less energy to process. Some corks, like Champagne cork, are made of cork particles. Are these OK to recycle? Yes. Corks made of granular particles are called “technical” agglomerated corks and can be recycled just fine. Are cork oak trees cut down for their bark? No. Unlike many forest products, cork oaks are never cut down for their bark. Cork oaks (Quercus suber L.) provide an ideal sustainable crop during a life cycle that lasts over 200 years. A mature tree (50 years old) can be harvested every 9 years for the life of the tree. What are recycled wine corks used for? Recycled wine corks can find a new life as shoe components, fishing rod handles, bulletin boards, place mats, flooring tiles, building insulation, gaskets, packaging materials, under playground equipment, and even as a soil amendment in compost. At present, ReCORK is focusing our reuse applications on footwear, with our partner SOLE. Do cork oaks grow in the U.S.? Yes. You can even find giant cork oaks on the grounds of the California State Capital in Sacramento, on the campus of UC Davis, and in random spots throughout the sun belt of America. However, the Mediterranean basin is where the best growing conditions exist. There are nearly 6 million acres of cork forests in the Mediterranean regions of Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France. Portugal is by far the largest producer.
What makes natural cork environmentally special Natural cork is made up of billions of cells. This gives cork its buoyant, elastic quality as well as the ability to absorb and retain nearly 9 grams of CO2 throughout the life of a wine cork. And with 13 billion corks sold each year worldwide, cork is an important source of CO2 retention. When you take the time to compare the features of natural cork against petroleum-based plastic plugs and aluminum screwcaps the difference is significant. It comes down to the fact that our source is renewable. Theirs is not! In a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study of the life cycle analysis of wine closures, CO2 emissions in aluminum screwcaps were 24 times higher than those from a natural cork closure, while plastic stoppers were 10 times greater than cork. Check outwww.corkfacts.com for more information about the study. How do cork forests play into recycling? The nearly 6 million acres of cork oak forests that dot the Mediterranean basin are the basis of an ecosystem which is unique in the world, and which contributes to the survival of many native species of plants and animals. It is also a source of employment for tens of thousands of agricultural workers. In addition, cork forests play a vital role in the fight against desertification and climate change. By recycling a simple cork stopper we can visualize the product source, its evolution into a useful natural product, and its potential for an extended life far beyond its first use in a bottle of fine wine. Very cool indeed!
Tell me about your tree-planting program. In 2010, ReCORK and SOLE have pledged to sponsor the planting of a minimum of 4,000 trees in Portugal. This effort is in collaboration with QUERCUS (the National Association for Nature Conservation), GREEN CORK (Amorim’s equivalent of ReCORK for Portugal), and Criar Bosques, a tree planting effort in Portugal. By the end of 2010, these projects will have planted over 200,000 trees in the name of conservation and forest stewardship. And this is just the beginning.