March 20, 2015

In my attempt to reduce what I call eco-clutter, I have been training myself to reduce my intake of plastic and paper containers, but there are a few other assorted items I still have difficulty throwing away. For example, corks from wine bottles. I know they won’t be recycled in the blue bin, so I keep them – in one of those plastic containers I had trouble tossing – for months, thinking that I’ll find some clever use for them or transform them into a magnificent art project. Actually, one afternoon last year my son Theo and I did while away an hour or two making little characters out of sparkling wine corks, which have little heads, painting them and giving them clothes and faces. Theo’s made Corkemon (after Pokemon) and I made a Korkeshi (after Japanese Kokeshi dolls). We had a blast that day, but I know that moment will never be repeated. So, what to do with the 30 odd corks I have stashed in one of our kitchen cupboards?

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Today, instead of googling “art projects using corks,” I looked up “donate corks” and was relieved to discover that there are a couple of organizations now recycling millions of wine bottle corks each year. Since 2010, Whole Foods has also been working with Cork ReHarvest, one of the pioneers of cork recycling in the U.S. and Canada, collecting used corks and pulping them so that they can be used to make cork tiles and other post-consumer products (www.corkforest.org). In 2012, Bevmo also started recycling corks with another company, ReCORK (www.recork.org). As I searched for a home for my corks, I was fascinated to learn about how corks are actually made. They are harvested from the bark of Cork Oaks or Quercus suber, mainly in southwest Europe, especially Portugal and Spain, and northwest Africa. Once the trees are about 25 years old the cork is traditionally stripped from the trunks every nine years, with the first two harvests generally producing lower quality cork. The trees live for about 300 years, so each tree can provide multiple harvests of cork without any damage to the trees. Although the cork harvesting is sustainable and the forests help prevent the desertification of these warmer regions, there is increased pressure on these forests as more and more people around the world consume wine – apparently about 20 billion bottles a year! As I made my way home from Whole Foods, I no longer felt silly about hoarding those corks, but I was glad to get rid of them knowing that by recycling them, we can help the cork oak growers keep up with the human race’s love of wine.

2 thoughts on “March 20, 2015

  1. Great information! Thanks so much, once again. I might just add that I see more and more twist off caps on wine bottles. I’m not much of a drinker. What do you think?

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  2. This is good to know. In Australia, they have more or less given up on using cork except for the most expensive Grange Hermitage bottles. In Canberra there is an experimental cork plantation begun in the 1920s, but it never got going. Cork is apparently slow to grow. My sister makes enormous bulletin boards out of ALL her many, many wine bottle corks.

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