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We have heard about recycled down and wool – but cork? Maybe it’s time we start looking at this wonder material as more than just a bottle stopper.
First – where does cork actually come from?
From cork oak forests, primarily found in Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia, and France. The tree bark, which is what wine corks are made of, is harvested by hand once every nine years. Every time a tree is harvested, it begins to regrow its bark anew. This process causes no environmental damage and can actually be good for the tree: harvesting a cork oak’s bark can extend the tree’s lifespan to over 300 years. There are differences, however, in environmental impact depending on cork producers. There are FSC-certified forests in all the major producing countries.
What are the benefits of cork?
The trees’ root systems both anchor the soil and are excellent water regulators in the semi-arid landscapes where they grow. They also provide a living ecosystem, with each tree offering shade and a home to approximately 100 species. Finally, they are also effective carbon sinks – and the cork harvesting process itself also removes more carbon from the atmosphere and locks it away in new bark. At the end of its life cycle, cork can easily biodegradable into the environment, or be recycled into new products.
Aside from wine corks, what are its other applications?
While most of the raw material is used for making new wine corks, cork is an extremely versatile material with a range of applications. Cork’s naturally durable, moisture-wicking, lightweight and rotresistant qualities make it perfect for repurposing into a wide variety of eco-friendly products, for instance soles for footwear.