Cathy gave over 10 pounds of corks to an artist in town last week. We usually ship our corks to Yemm and Hart, which now pays for corks and turns them into tiles. Terracycle (and the local artist) also collect plastic corks. So, there are many people that want your wine corks! Relatedly, World Wildlife Fund has asked everyone to buy wine with natural corks.
“Cork harvesting is an environmentally-friendly process during which not a single tree is cut down. Synthetic and screw top closures are more harmful to the environment because they use more energy in production and are oil-based products” World Wildlife Fund, May 15, 2006. Did you know that the Cork Montados, the cork oak savannahs, are the continuation of an ancient practice and multi-dimensional use of land around the Mediterranean Sea? The Cork Montados actually protect the biodiversity and certain wildlife that is endangered or on the brink of extinction and are a hedge against desertification caused by global warming as the Sahara creeps into Europe. Real cork is sustainable, synthetic and screw caps are not.
Andrew very intelligently asked, doesn't recycling corks undermine cork agriculture? My answer is that 1) recycling keeps cork and other materials out of landfills, 2) recycling cork through Yemm and Hart helps to build a new market with sustainable materials but does not infringe on the wine cork market, and 3) the amount of cork we are recycling is so small comparatively. So, buy wine with natural corks and recycle all corks. Don't toss your corks because many groups want them.