Recycling A New Beginning

Even though cork stoppers are biodegradable and absorb CO2, their life doesn’t end after a bottle is opened. Recycling, and the reuse of raw materials, enables the life cycle of cork stoppers to be extended, contributing to a better planet. Although recycled cork is never used to make new cork stoppers, it can be used in multiple applications.

Cork stoppers naturally absorb CO2, an ability that draws back to their origin at the forest. One single cork stopper can absorb 305 g of CO2. But for an exceptional material such as cork, this is really just the beginning. Pop! The bottle has just been opened, and a new journey starts for cork.

If cork stoppers are good by nature, the possibility of extending their lifecycle, by recycling and reusing them in new products, further expands their ecological flair.

As the world’s largest cork producer, Amorim has played a leading role in promoting the recycling of cork. Cork recycling campaigns and programs started in Portugal, with the Green Cork program, and were quickly adopted by other countries, such as the US and Canada (ReCork), France (EcoBouchon), Italy (Etico), the UK, South Africa, and Australia. In several countries, cork recycling campaigns have an added social responsibility dimension: for each tonne of collected cork stoppers, a donation is made to a local charity or institution, giving back to civil society.

Although cork stoppers are ecological by nature - a 100% natural, biodegradable product - their positive environmental impact can be further expanded through recycling. At Amorim’s cork recycling unit, used cork stoppers are treated and ground into granules, opening a new cycle as a raw material. Although it shall never be used to make cork stoppers again, this recycled cork has a multitude of uses, from coverings to insulation, from sports surfaces to tennis balls, from shoes to aircraft components.

Reusing the byproducts of the industrial process, to guarantee that nothing is lost, everything is transformed, is another practice at Amorim. Only 30% of cork meets the quality standards to manufacture natural cork stoppers, but the rest is not wasted. Ground and transformed into granules, it is returned to the production process to make technical stoppers, expanded cork or composite cork. The production waste is turned into biomass - cork dust - a CO2 neutral source of energy which accounts for 60% of Amorim’s plant energy needs. From planks to cork dust, a perfect model of circular economy is activated.

“Working with a material where waste does not exist, because it is fully recyclable, allow us to design freely and gives us the freedom to explore different geometries”

Amanda Levete, architect

Cork Oak Forest

The cork oak forests, Montado in Portuguese, are living ambassadors of sustainability and a driving force of sustainable development. They play a crucial role in the world’s ecological balance, fighting climate change and desertification and sustaining biodiversity.

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