Image via: SOLE
Ever wonder what happens to all of those corks you see collected in the bins at grocery stores? Seems like a great recycling program, if you can remember to bring the corks with you, but where do they go after that? Certainly not to get stuffed back in new wine bottles, right?The New York Times reports that when the cork recycling program ReCork America launched in 2007, their owners Amorim of Portugal didn't have a hard time collecting the corks but in finding an end-user or new life for the corks. The first year, they collected 500,000 and now have about 4 million corks in need of a new home and a new life. Turns out, they have found their partner and its closer to home, which means fewer carbon emissions by not shipping the cork long distances.
In the past, the corks were shipped off to Portugal to be repurposed, but that plan was too costly. Now Canadian sandal and insole maker SOLE is going to use the cork as part of the sole, no pun intended, of their shoes. In exchange, Sole will give nation-wide marketing which includes the ReCork America name and logo for all of the collected corks. There are roughly 13 billion corks sold (in wine bottles) each year. 13 billion. And most of them are simply tossed into the garbage. ReCork America is still only in a few states, but they are hoping to expand their market. Other companies reusing the cork: Yemm & Hart have turned 8,000 pounds of cork into flooring and TerraCycle has a Cork Brigade that works to collect and keep cork out of landfills.
This cork debate isn't simply just a matter of eat, drink, recycle and be merry. There are actually several camps interested in what happens to your corks. From the groups that want to stop using corks entirely and go to screw caps (because they can be recycled, oddly enough) to the groups that say using natural cork actually helps protect forests and endangered species. Interested in the many uses of cork? Check out these links below for more on the topic. :Sole
More Uses for Cork
Organic Cork versus Synthetic Cork
10 Reuses for Cork
15000 Corks Reused for Wine Store Decor
New Cork Furniture by Joe Pipal
Corticeira Amorim, Portugese Cork Supplier's Sustainability Report