The second life of the cork stopper
Cork stoppers are a natural, recyclable and reusable product. To take advantage of and preserve this valuable resource, a growing number of countries have taken measures to implement recycling initiatives, in order to raise awareness of the importance of this material among local populations. Although recycled cork is never reused to manufacture cork stoppers for wine, there are many other possible alternative applications. For example, corkboards, place mats, coasters, flooring, coverings, components for the motor vehicle industry, and insulation material, among others.
We have some notable projects in Portugal. The Green Cork project developed by Quercus in partnership with Amorim and Continente hypermarkets started up in 2008. The cork stoppers are collected in supermarkets and shopping centres, like Dolce Vita, and taken to be treated and ground, transformed into granulate, and go back to being a raw material for a second life. The idea of Green Cork has extended to other countries such as Spain, USA, Canada, France, Italy, United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia.
Recycling initiatives around the world
Green Cork – It is a cork stopper recycling programme developed by Quercus, in partnership with Amorim, Continente, Dolce Vita, schools, scouts, local councils, waste collection companies, wineries, winemakers and other entities. The project aims not only to transform used corks into other products but also, through its recycling effort, to fund part of the “Common Forest” programme, which aims to plant native forest trees, including cork oaks.
Cork Stopper Recycling Bin – São Brás de Alportel Council, in Algarve, launched an original initiative among its residents, at the start of 2005: it challenged them to dispose of used corks in the cork stopper recycling bin. This bin was specifically designed and prepared for this purpose, and several were strategically spread throughout the municipality beside the usual recycling bins. Even before the creation of the Cork recycling bins, this local council had already implemented the fortnightly collection of cork stoppers from around fifteen restaurants of the region. An initiative aimed at the recovery and recycling of cork stoppers from bottles or demijohns to manufacture a variety of products. The new objects can put on sale, thus helping to raise awareness of the importance of ecological issues in the protection of the environment.
Corkscrew initiative – This is the name of a project of the Portuguese Guides Association (AGP), launched in 2005, which aims to collect used cork stoppers and recover them for new uses. AGP had collected 20,000 kg of stoppers by December 2012. What was the purpose? This project has a dual purpose: to contribute to the conservation of the environment, reusing a natural resource – cork, and to cooperate with charity institutions since the sum that results from the sale of the stoppers for new uses is channelled to those charity institutions. How do I take part? Anybody can participate. They just have to contact AGP and ask for a cork recycling bin to be provided, agreeing the delivery place and date. Later on, the Guides replace the bin for a new one and collect the stoppers that have been deposited in the bin.
“Recycling cork recycles life” – This is the name of an initiative that is being implemented in Spain and which aims to collect cork stoppers for later use in manual work for the disabled. The idea is that of the ADISANVI association , in São Vicente de Alcântara, and it has been underway since December 2010.
Recyclage – The French Federation of Cork Professionals set up a scheme for the collection of cork stoppers in several French towns. The collected stoppers are sold to companies of the sector to be reused for other products and the funds from the sales are channelled to humanitarian causes or handed over to Institut Méditerranéen du Liège for the planting of new cork oaks.
EcoBouchon – An initiative for the collection and recycling of stoppers backed by Amorim France. It is spread throughout the country.
Tappo a chi? – The project was first implemented in Florence by Rilegno (consortium for the collection and recycling of wood packaging) and Quadrifoglio (Florence environmental services) who joined forces to set up a scheme for the recycling of cork stoppers in the region. Nevertheless, after the pilot phase Rilegno advanced with various other consortia in other regions of Italy. Legambiente (Associação Ambientalista Italiana) and Amorim Cork Italia are two other entities also involved in the project.
Etico – The Etico project was created by Amorim Italia in Italy. It aims to collect and recycle stoppers in various cities of the country, in partnership with a number of associations linked to various causes. The sums collected from the sale of these stoppers are given to the association for use in the development of its activity.
ReCORK – It is a collection and recycling scheme for cork stoppers in the USA and Canada. The ReCORK programme is sponsored by the Amorim company, in Portugal, by SOLE, a shoemaker, and by the Amorim companies in the USA – Amorim Cork America and Portocork America. The goal is to recycle cork stoppers and educate and inform the public about the critical role of cork oak forests in the fight against climate change and protection of the ecosystem. ReCORK has already collected millions of used corks. SOLE uses the recycled cork stoppers to develop products using this raw material instead of plastic. The stoppers are collected in retailers and restaurants throughout North America.
CORK Re-Harvest – The Cork Re-Harvest movement, which has been collecting cork stoppers since 2008, is considered one of the largest of the USA and Canada. In addition to collection, the group’s activities include educating the public about the cork oak forest and cork oaks and biodiversity, raising awareness of the threat of extinction faced by the Iberian lynx and Iberian imperial eagle. It is now called, for this reason, the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA). It implements campaigns that go beyond recycling, aiming to conserve the cork oak forest and the ecosystems. The partners are Forest Stewardship Council – FSC, European Forest Institute – EFI and the Economic and Social Committee of the United Nations.
Clean Up – In Australia, cork stoppers have been collected and recycled by Girl Guides since 1992 Every year they collect more than 30 tons of stoppers from friends, hotels, restaurants, clubs and wineries.
The Australians are encouraged to take used cork stoppers to a local “Clean Up site” and leave them in special Guides Australia cork recycling bags.
Korkampagne – NABU, a German environmental association, runs a cork stopper recycling project which has been implemented in 1000 locations including its own offices, schools and government bodies. The initiative, known as “Korkampagne” aims to collect cork stoppers in Hamburg and donate them to one of the city’s main associations for disabled people. This association has a grinding machine and it receives and grinds the stoppers in order to make other cork products. The association aims for a social goal, as well as raising awareness for the conservation of the planet.
Korken für Kork – The Assoziation des Werkstoffs Kork association, which aims to transform the collected stoppers into cork article, is responsible for this initiative. The association was founded in 1991 and it is known as Diakonie Kork. The recycling project has 3 goals, focused on the social and ecological areas:
Recycork – The collection and recycling of cork stoppers began 15 years ago in Belgium, and under the responsibility of the Petit Liège association. Other associations followed its example and recycling appeared in several cities. In 2011, Petit Liège closed and the social company De Vlaspit decided to continue the project, bringing more professionalism to the idea. The recycled product is sold under the name “Recycork” and more than 900 stopper collection points can be found all over the country.