Quick Cork Fact
Cork is a 100% natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material that is obtained through an environmentally friendly harvesting process.
Trees are not cut down to harvest cork, rather, the bark is stripped by hand every 9-12 years. Cork oak trees can live up to 300 years!
Approximately 6.6 million acres of Mediterranean cork forest extend across Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France. These oak forests support one of the world's highest levels of forest biodiversity, second only to the Amazonian Rainforest.
Opting for screw caps and plastic stoppers directly causes the loss of sustainable livelihoods as the cork forests are a vital source of income for thousands of families.
There is enough cork in the cork forests of Portugal and Spain to last more than 100 years. The introduction of new products, such as composite corks, allows even better utilization of existing cork resources, using granulated cork that can be obtained from smaller pieces of raw cork otherwise unusable in the production of conventional punched cork.
Q. Why are the cork forests so important?
A. These forests contain one of the world's highest levels of forest biodiversity including endemic plants and endangered species such as the Iberian Lynx, the Iberian Imperial Eagle, and the Barbary Deer. It is also vital source of income for thousands of family farmers, who for generations have worked these forests. These forests absorb millions of tons of CO2 each year and are a vast provider of oxygen to our planet. The forests also provide the greatest defense against the desertification of this region. The cork forests are one of the most sustainable and environmentally harvested forests in the world.
Q. Doesn't recycling the cork here reduce the need for cork from the Mediterranean forests?
A. No, if fact it helps to promote the use of cork, for products and industries that were not using cork before. The cork that is collected by Cork ReHarvest does not go back into wine bottles; it is ground up and used for other products. By increasing the awareness of the value and usefulness of cork, we hope to be creating greater demand.
Q. Isn't there a cork shortage?
A. No in fact, based upon current estimates there is enough cork to close all wine bottles produced in the world, for the next 100 years. The cork forests are now being more sustainably managed than ever before in their history and new planting is always ongoing.
Q. What's wrong with screw caps and plastic closures?
A. Screw caps are not made from a sustainable product; they are not actively being recycled in the US and are not biodegradable. In comparison to a natural cork, 24 times more greenhouse gasses are released and over and 10 times more energy is used when making one screw cap.
Plastic closures are made from petro-chemicals, are not biodegradable and are rarely recycled. They are not sourced from a sustainable product and produce 10 times more greenhouse gasses than natural cork to produce.
Q. What about wine taint and corks?
A. Over the last 10 years the cork industry has committed millions of dollars to research and development, quality control and forestry practices to improve every aspect of the cork closure manufacturing process.
There is no doubt, that the cork industry was slow to react to the problem of 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) . That lack of response resulted in the wine industry asking for alternative closures to be developed. But with current testing indicating that wine taint from bottles closed with natural cork, is down to 1% there is no quality benefit to using an alternative closure. When given the opportunity to choose a sustainable, renewable, recyclable and quality closure, cork is and should be the number one choice. Choosing to ignore the negative environmental impact of using screw caps and plastic closures seems counterproductive to producing a natural and sustainable product.
Q. Why can't I ship my cork to you?
A. Cork ReHarvest is committed to not increasing the carbon footprint of the corks we collect to recycle. Natural cork is a carbon sink and in a landfill, cork is actually a good thing. It's natural, biodegradable and will slowly release its carbon over 100 years. To transport it all over the planet to recycle it is actually of no benefit and in fact, a negative to our environment. We have chosen partners who are committed to collecting and transporting the cork, with a no carbon footprint increase, and to recycling the cork here in North America.
Q. Why is Cork ReHarvest different than other cork recycling programs?
A. Cork ReHarvest is a 501c3 nonprofit environmental organization. We represent all the countries of the 6.6 million acres of cork forests in the Mediterranean Basin.
Cork recycling is only one of our organizations projects; our work expands beyond the scope of the wine industry.
We are fully committed to a zero carbon footprint increase to the cork we collect. We do not ship the cork we collect out of the U.S. and we are invested in helping to create new products and jobs here in America.
Cork ReHarvest is funded by grants, charitable contributions and from corporate sponsorship.
Q. How can I make a difference?
A. When purchasing wine at either your local bottle shop or your favorite restaurant, let your host know that you prefer wine closed with natural cork. It is amazing the effect the consumer has on those who are making buying decisions. The great benefit to participating in this program is the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping to save one of the world's most important ecological regions but also, there's that great glass of wine as your reward. You can help us continue the important work we are doing to help save not only the cork forests, but our planet as well, by making a tax deductible donation to Cork ReHarvest.