Taking action

Cork Recycling – from the dinner table to the stars?

Simon Mason our Head of Wine Sustainability & Due Diligence, looks at the resurgence of cork as a closure for wine bottles and why The Wine Society has teamed up with Wine Logistics UK to offer a cork recycling scheme.

Cork Recycling – from the dinner table to the stars?

The wine bottle closure market is a competitive one. Cork – long the closure of choice for winemakers and consumers alike, has experienced decades of increased competition from screwcaps as a result of issues around taint and bottle variability which cork manufacturers have worked hard to overcome. Currently though, the format is undergoing something of a resurgence as the wine industry learns more about the potential sustainability advantages corks present when compared to other closures.

The world’s largest cork producer Amorim has conducted considerable research that shows a well-managed cork forest can sequester as much as 21 times the greenhouse gas emissions of its entire value chain. The same cork forests are also identified as one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots and have provided sustainable, well-paid work for local communities.

The missing piece in the sustainability puzzle, in the UK at least, has been the absence of a means to recycle cork. Indeed, the UK Government placed cork on a list of 13 packaging materials that will potentially be liable for higher producer fees under new packaging regulations due to the lack of viable recycling options in the UK. Given the other materials are largely plastics, cork stands out, particularly as it can readily be given a new life as insulation, tennis balls, shoes or aircraft components. Cork is also an essential part of space exploration due to its thermal insulation properties. What a waste if this amazing material ends up in the bin.

So that we can rescue as much cork as possible from landfill and incinerators, The Wine Society has teamed up with Wine Logistics UK to offer a service that will allow members to return their corks which will then be mulched, consolidated into shipping containers and returned to Portugal where they can be properly recycled.

At the moment, we can offer this service to those visiting the Society Showroom in Stevenage or receiving their deliveries by Wine Society van. Simply gather up your corks and hand to your Society driver. Please don’t include any of the dwindling number of plastic corks as these cannot be recycled via this route. “Technical” corks such as those produced by Diam, agglomerate corks and others that are made of cork granules glued together are fine to include.

We shall also be sending off all corks from our tasting and events programme and from our own tasting room to be recycled in this way.

For those members that don’t have the option of a Society van, until we are able to extend this service, your corks can be added to compost, preferably grated up first (some people use a high-powered blender) or as a garden mulch.

>> Find out more about sustainability at The Wine Society

Simon Mason

Head of Wine Sustainability & Due Diligence

Simon Mason

Simon has been at The Society for more than a decade, heading our Tastings Team before moving into our Buying Department. Now Head of Wine Sustainability & Due Diligence, Simon works with our suppliers to encourage and accelerate collaboration and improving sustainability throughout our wine supply chain.

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