How to Recycle Corks

Corks are more than souvenirs from fancy dinners, Napa Valley getaways and the occasional wine festival bender – they’re actually a surprisingly sustainable material from an unlikely source with plenty of possibilities for creative reuse. Next time you pop a top on a bottle of white or red, remember these tips for recycling and reuse.

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Frequent Corks Recycling Questions

Where can I recycle corks?

Cork is a 100 percent natural, biodegradable and renewable resource. According to ReCork, cork trees are an environmentally sustainable resource. Layers of the tree bark are stripped off (without harming the tree) and turned into various products, most often wine corks.

Not a single tree, each of which can live up to 300 years, is cut down during cork extraction. Instead, bark is harvested by hand every nine to 12 years.

Why is cork used in wine instead of metal or plastic lids?

That depends on who you ask. The cork people have about a million reasons why people should use cork including “non-renewable energy consumption, emission of greenhouse effect gases, contribution to atmospheric acidification, contribution to the formation of photochemical oxidants, contribution to the eutrophication of surface water and total production of solid waste” when using metal or plastic. In addition, “Cork for bottle stoppers accounts for almost 70% of the total value of the cork market. The wine industry thus plays a vital role in maintaining the economic value of cork and the cork oak forests.”

However, some wine makers say that plastic or metal alternatives make more economic sense, and while foodies may argue that synthetic is a safer bet from a mold or resealing standpoint. The debate continues over at

Are there cool ways to reuse cork?

Yes! Because it is such a durable material, you can recycle corks into anything from craft supplies to flooring.

Cork can be used to make DIY lamp shades, bath mats, flip-flops and even recycled home appliances.

Help others recycle corks by sharing this on Pinterest.

Looking to recycle corks? Find a recycling location in your area using the recycling search by Earth911.