Start Spring Off Right: Recycle!

May 4th, 2010 by jolan in general wine knowledge, interesting facts, wine lifestyle

Ah, spring. ‘Tis the season to roll up your sleeves and start gardening – plant those petunias, prep your tomato posts, and perhaps begin on that compost pile you’ve been thinking about. A handy tip, for those who love a glass of cool wine after spending time in the hot sun: you can recycle natural corks in your own backyard.

Natural corks may have their faults (one being trichloroanisole, aka TCA, aka cork taint, aka a mouthful of trouble), but they have long been the traditional way of stopping up glass bottles. Their longevity has not been by default: corks come from trees that do not need to be cut down in order to supply material. Cork oak trees, the vast majority (in the realm of 6.6 million) of which come from Portugal and the Mediterranean, are hand-stripped of their bark every nine to twelve years. The trees rest for a decade or so, and then are stripped again to provide new material for cork. Cork oak trees can live up to 300 years – I like to think that maybe somehow I’m opening a bottle of wine stopped up with the same genetic material as some grand dignitary’s wine from hundreds of years earlier.

But the question is, once you’ve popped open your wine, what to do with the cork that’s kicking around your kitchen? You have quite a few options, everything from handcrafting a cork wreath to shipping your used goods to a company that will re-use the material to make shoes. My favorite by far, though, is to simply shred your corks and use them in your own backyard:

  • Use the corks as mulch. Because natural corks come from tree bark, they can be substituted for the regular bark mulch bought at home supply stores.
  • Use corks for composting. Natural corks can replace any brown, carbon-based (read: organic) material you would normally use.

If you’re interested in reading more about how to recycle your natural corks, please check out the links below:

Yemm & Hart Green Materials – This company uses donated corks to make floor tiles. They’ve collected over 9,000 pounds of cork since their project began in 2004!

Whole Foods recently launched a cork recycling program, whereby customers (or anyone living nearby with a deep love of wine and recycling) can deposit used corks in a special drop box. Depending on the location of your local Whole Foods, your corks may go to Western Pulp, Yemm & Hart, or Jelinek Cork Group.

ReCORK is a cork recycling program sponsored by Amorim (the world’s largest producer of natural cork) and SOLE (a footwear manufacturer); used corks go to make shoes. They’ve collected more than 7,500,000 corks!

Fishing fiends should check out – the company has rigged up an unusual wine cork/beer cap fish-lookalike hook bait.

And, last but not least, do-it-yourselfers can browse this helpful resource of wine cork-based handcrafts. I like the cork board featured on Monk.

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