You may never have given too much thought to the humble wine cork. It is, after all, the object coming between you and a bottle of wine. But cork is actually an amazing eco-friendly, naturally sustainable material that has a number of practical uses outside of the wine bottle.
Cork is the outer bark that is harvested from cork oak trees, an evergreen species that is native to Portugal, Spain, Italy and northwest Africa. Once the trees reach an initial maturation age of 25 years, the outer layer of bark can be carefully removed without causing damage to the tree itself. From this point on, the bark can be continually harvested every 9-13 years, for as long as 250 years! Cork forests are carefully monitored by both forest owners and environmental authorities to protect their health, and ensure that they are not harvested ahead of time. This continual process makes cork a naturally renewable source of raw material unlike any other in the world.
The environmental benefits associated with cork extend beyond these growth and harvest cycles. Cork oak trees are able to absorb 3-5 times more carbon dioxide than most trees, contribute to soil fertility, and provide a rich environment in which the local eco-system is able to thrive. Once produced, cork and its products are also easily recyclable and bio-degradable. It is naturally buoyant, flexible, water-resistant, flame-retardant, thermally insulating and highly durable. Companies seeking sustainable, environmentally friendly materials for their products are taking advantage of cork’s versatility- and so should you!
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