Recycling cork stoppers

Published by Sally on November 13, 2011

 Originally published as part of a longer article in the August 2011 issue of Drinks Business.

The USA’s huge market and strong preference for cork make it an ideal market for recycling. Cork manufacturer Amorim have an ongoing project there where recycled corks, from any origin, are re-used by Sole, a Canadian footwear company.  Since the ‘Recork’ programme kicked off in 2007, 16 million corks have been collected.  Carlos de Jesus, Amorim’s director of communications said “it’s mostly California and Washington.  It needs to be done in a financially and environmentally viable way”, there’s no point shipping a few thousand corks across states because it costs more than any benefit of recycling stoppers.

In mainland Europe, said de Jesus, used corks “are sent back to Amorim and incorporated in the production process of any non-stopper produce including floor and wall coverings, and aerospace applications”. He added the NH hotel chain “with properties throughout Europe have announced a partnership with Amorim to recycle corks.”

The scale of recycling is still tiny. Amorim recovered the equivalent of just over 1% of the company’s annual sales of cork stoppers.

The costs of shipping used corks across the English Channel can outweigh the recycling benefits. So in the UK it was Direct Wines/Laithwaites that picked up the recycling baton at the beginning of 2009. Anne Linder, development manager for Laithwaites Wines said “it grew out of recycling wooden wine boxes at a special needs school close to us, who make all manner of things such as trays and bird boxes. They were looking to grow that art and craft activity with cork.“

To generate a flow of material for the school there are now cork bins, taking all cork-based stoppers but no synthetics, in all Laithwaites shops.  Linder added they were able go further “because we have a small vineyard, so we put the corks through a garden shredder to use as chippings to suppress week growth and retain moisture. All the glue is food grade, so there’s no risk of anything nasty.” Word is spreading, because Laithwaites also collect the used corks from the Savoy Hotel, and now the Goring, in London, though the garden shredder is a personal option is available to all consumers with a garden or allotment.

The remainder of the original article can be found:
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified cork stoppers
Reasons to choose stoppers

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