The wonders of cork: insights into a sustainable, versatile material.

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At ReCORK and SOLE we're crazy about cork.

We've put countless hours of research and development into figuring out the very best way of turning wine corks into a raw material that we can use to replace foams and plastics in consumer products. We dedicate huge numbers of human hours and financial resources to running our ReCORK cork collections. But why cork? What's so special about this material that warrants our obsession? In short, cork is both incredibly sustainable and super versatile. Here's why.

Sustainability

Cork is as natural, sustainable, renewable and good for the environment as we can imagine a material to be. The cork that makes up natural wine stoppers comes from the bark of cork oak trees that grow in Mediterranean Europe and North Africa. When the cork is harvested the trees aren't cut down, instead their bark is carefully stripped away by hand in a skilled trade that's passed down over generations. It takes between nine and twelve years for the bark to grow back thick enough to be harvested again. Regular harvesting not only leaves the trees alive, it actually extends their lifespan from around 75 years, to as long as 300 years. After harvest, as the trees begin to grow back their bark, they suck up to five times more carbon from the atmosphere to fuel the photosynthesis that the regrowth requires. That carbon is then locked away in the bark. For every ton of natural cork stoppers produced, cork oaks fix two tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. The cork industry supports huge areas of cork oak forests, 2.7 million hectares to be exact, cleaning the earth's air at remarkable rates.

At ReCORK, we believe that the easy thing to do isn't always the right thing to do. And we're here to do the right thing.

The cork oak forests aren't just fantastic carbon sinks, they're also hotspots of biodiversity, forming crucial habitats for various threatened animal and plant species, many of which occur nowhere else. Cork oaks are also essential in maintaining the health of the forest ecosystems, but they're not only important to other plants and animals. Jobs in the cork industry also provide a vital source of income for more than 100,000 people. So there you have it, cork is amazing for the planet and people. The more we use it, the healthier our earth becomes. But why recycle cork?

Versatility

Cork's not just incredible for its eco-friendly credentials. As a raw material it has many sought-after qualities: it's naturally moisture-wicking, cushioning, insulating, fire-resistant, anti-microbial (odor-repellent), biodegradable, buoyant, and beautiful. This combination of factors makes cork a great option for use in a variety of applications, and people have been making the most of its versatility for generations. It's been used for everything from roofing and floors to fishing floats. It's in baseballs, musical instruments and spaceships. Most recently our ReCORK scientists have developed a way to recycle cork into a material that has all the cushioning, flex and durability of petroleum-based foams and rubbers, perfect for using in SOLE footwear.

Ok great, so cork is versatile, but wouldn't it be easier just to use rubbers and plastics that can do all the same jobs? Yes, often it would be easier and cheaper. But at ReCORK, we believe that the easy thing to do isn't always the right thing to do. And we're here to do the right thing. That's why we've set up a collections network with thousands of partners, to recycle all the natural corks we can get our hands on. The more cork we can recycle, the more we can reduce reliance on petrochemical-based rubbers and plastics that harm the environment, and the more we can give consumers an option for products that they can feel good about buying.

Learn more about the ReCORK cork recycling process here, and how you can get involved in the program to take super simple steps for the good of the planet, here.