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Put a Cork in Global Warming: Recycle Those Wine Corks 

By: Laura Sabo  In January, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Whole Foods Markets, the Rainforest Alliance and Western Pulp Products introduced the Cork Re-Harvest Program in an effort to make consumers aware about the importance of recycling cork from wine bottles.

Why not make this a habit and part of your recycling routine? It’s easy and a win-win situation.

According to Jim Bernau, founder and president of Willamette Valley Vineyards (WVV), “The new program is necessary to sustain the cork forests of cork producing countries, including Spain and Portugal.” Cork trees naturally remove carbon from the air and sequester it in their bark and pump oxygen back into the atmosphere. If we choose wine sealed with natural cork, we help the environment.”

The cork forests are second only to the Amazon Rainforest in their importance to the world’s biosphere. With the increased use of plastic stoppers and aluminum screw caps, consumers are reducing the use of natural cork, thus increasing the danger of global warming. According to Bernau, “High quality natural cork is the best way to preserve wine quality so if consumers continue the use of cork, we need to be responsible for the recycling of it.”

Willamette Valley Vineyards was the first winery in the world to receive certification from the Rainforest Alliance for using 100% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified cork. With the new Cork Re-Harvest Program, it becomes the first winery to launch a cork recycling program with zero increase to its carbon footprint.

Erez Klein, Regional Purchasing Specialist at Whole Foods Market Pacific Northwest Region, said, “Consumers have been asking for a cork recycling program and we are happy to respond to consumer demands.”

Rainforest Alliance’s Chris Gibbons says, “The Rainforest Alliance applauds Willamette Valley Vineyards for being a sustainability leader in the Pacific Northwest. Not only are they sourcing their cork from FSC certified cork forests, but they’re taking the next step and establishing a cork recycling program to help mitigate the use of virgin cork.”

Recycling boxes have been placed in all 11 Whole Foods Markets in the Pacific Northwest Region. When distributors deliver wine to Whole Foods, they’ll pick up the cork and return it to their warehouse. The cork is then transported to Western Pulp when WVV makes deliveries to their warehouse.

If successful, the Cork Re-Harvest Program will launch across the US in the next few months. As consumers, we can all help put a cork in global warming. After all, how many cork boards made of wine corks does one need?






Making a difference one cork at a time

Known as ReCORK America, the program is focused on obtaining used and surplus corks from winery tasting rooms, bottling lines and quality assurance laboratories. In addition, collection locations are being established with key retailers and restaurants in larger metropolitan areas.

A list of current collection locations is available on their website. It should be emphasized that only natural cork is being accepted. No plastic or metal closures please.

Find out more: ReCORK America 


Recycle your corks with Yemm & Hart

Wine and Champagne corks are now being recycled in the USA
Send your wine and champagne cork stoppers prepaid (paid by sender) to: Yemm & Hart via UPS or USPS:

Wine Cork Recycling
Yemm & Hart Ltd
425 North Chamber Dr
Fredericktown MO  63645

Yemm & Hart is collecting wine cork stoppers with the goal of converting them into a useful self sustaining product—to extend the useful life of this natural resource for decades and to raise awareness of the cork oak tree and its ecosystem. At the end of 2007, approximately 3,000 pounds have been received. Some of these corks have gone into experimentation and sample production. When the Wine Cork Tile samples are all labeled and boxed, every contributor of wine corks that we have a valid address for will receive the promised samples. Additionally, Wine Cork Tile samples will be included with the normal Yemm & Hart Green Materials sample kits.

Yemm & Hart has determined that the most sustaining type of product is a tile. We will produce tiles that resemble the image (at right) in 36” squares of 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2” thicknesses. They will be sanded on one side and ready to be adhered to a floor, wall or other substrate. When sales have been made of the tiles, then the wine cork contribution portion of this experiment will evolve into wine cork redemption. This is where Yemm & Hart will set a price and pay for wine corks sent to them based upon  established rules. Initial contributors of cork stoppers will receive preferential pricing on Wine Cork Tiles. 

(Information in this post comes from the Yemm & Hart website)