Cork: a natural resource that changed our lives since B.C., allowing us to better seal and protect our food and beverages. Simple and modest, corks have been an essential part of the winemaking industry for many centuries. Those tiny inconspicuous plugs featuring different sizes and shapes are the most inspiring devices. Their job is quite simple: to keep the wine inside the bottle and to seal out the air. This doesn’t seem like much, but considering they have been doing this for the past, oh I don’t know… say 2000 years, my hat goes off to them! I’d like to see you keep a job for that long. So I think a little respect is well overdue.
I keep my corks… (and so does the other writer on this blog, Steve.) For each bottle of wine (or Champagne) I open, the cork goes into an oversized clear glass vase we keep in the living room. Though most people keep them for craft projects, I only keep them for decorative purposes. I have seen wine enthusiasts fill up wooden wine cases and wine barrels. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to throw them away because it feels wrong. It just wouldn’t be fair after centuries of loyal service to the wine community. So how can we reuse them? Well, how about a cute little keychain, some ornaments for the patio, framed coasters, wine cork bird house (probably my favorite), a dress as worn by these lovely ladies, or even a comfortable chair. The cork craft ideas are endless and quite original! I dare you to try one of them or come up with your own idea.
Perhaps you’re not the crafty type. That’s OK, no one’s perfect ;) There are other options. A few people from around the world have put their energy and dedication for recycling to use. They have gone the extra step and put together programs to collect and recycle this 100% natural material and produce dozens of new products from it.
Cork has a unique set of properties not found in any other naturally existing material. It is lightweight, water-resistant, rot resistant, fire resistant, termite resistant, impermeable to gas and liquid, soft and buoyant. Phew! Not too shabby for a piece of bark. We currently produce 13 billion (yes, billion!) natural cork wine closures each year. Most of them end up in landfills instead of in reuse applications. Cork is ideal for recycling. It is biodegradable, renewable, energy efficient, sustainable, and 100% natural. Wine corks can find new life as footwear, 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.
So if you don’t have any plans for your corks, I hope you will consider recycling and giving those little guys a new career they so well deserve. The following organizations can help:
Put A Cork In It – http://www.putacorkinit.ca
ReCORK – http://www.recork.org
Jelinek Group – http://www.jelinek.com
Yemm & Hart – http://www.yemmhart.com
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) – http://www.usgbc.org
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) – http://www.leed.net
Whole Foods Market – http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com
Napa Recycling – http://www.naparecycling.com/cork
Cork Forest Conservation Alliance – http://www.corkforest.org
Cork ReHarvest – http://www.corkreharvest.org
Nomacorc (synthetic/plastic corks only) – http://www.nomacorc.com
They all offer useful recycling information and nearby drop-off locations. Drink happy and recycle your corks!
Want to learn more? Read about cork and corks in this 2-part article from Wine Ponder.