Are Corks Recyclable?

Production of wine is on a rapid increase. According to an estimate in 2015, people consumed around 34 billion bottles of wine worldwide. In 2015 alone, people popped billions of wine corks. You can tell that this is a considerable amount of wine corks going out each year. Guess what; even with the adoption of screw-top lids, wine corks remain the top pick for keeping wine bottles tightly shut.

So, you can see that there is a need to maintain environmentally safe practices with wine corks. Well, to achieve this, some questions might be on your mind. You might be wondering what the aftermath of those used corks is? Are corks recyclable? Are corks biodegradable? Can wine corks be composed? If you store up your used corks, do they have any money worth? And what can you do with your old cork?

wine-corks
Source: Canva

We understand that these are all valid questions. As such, in this article, we will be sharing our findings with you. Dive in!

Can You Recycle Wine Corks?

Wine corks are seals which are used to trap the wine in its bottle. Wine corks can be in two forms the natural/real cork and the plastic / synthetic cork.

The oak tree is the sole manufacturer of natural cork. Oak trees can be found mostly in the Iberian Peninsula, which is between Spain and Portugal. In the natural cork production, the manufacturing company strips off the oak tree’s bark. The manufacturer produces cork from this process.

On the other hand, synthetic corks are made from plastic materials. With the advancement of technology, synthetic corks continue to expand, and with time, be on equal par with its natural counterparts.

Note that this categorization is important in determining if you can recycle your cork. Precisely, if you intend to recycle your corks, the first step is to find out the type of cork.

There is a need to know whether your corks are natural or synthetic/plastic corks. Although they look similar, you can quickly tell the difference by merely looking at its appearance and feeling its texture. Unlike natural cork, plastic cork is smooth and rubbery.

Now, let us assess the recycling possibilities of these two options.

Natural Wine Corks

Although wine corks are recyclable, their recycling process is different from those of other products. Hardly will you find a curbside recycling organization that accepts corks. This means that you will have to find those companies that recycle corks yourself.

There are several recycling centers for cork recycling. These centers deal with only natural corks. These companies recycle these natural corks by shredding and grinding them into small pieces. They then use the remains as fillers for shoe production, bag manufacturing, and other products.

Again, you can look around for cork dropboxes. Grocery stores, hotels, wine stores, and other strategic places where people consume wines are places where they place the dropbox. These dropboxes are the property of organizations that collect natural cork for recycling purposes.

So, yes, you can recycle natural corks.

Plastic or Synthetic Wine Corks

The use of synthetic wine corks is on the rise, and unlike the natural cork, you can put plastic wine corks with your other wastes.

Another means of recycling your synthetic cork is to get a cork collection box. You can deliver the container once it is full of corks to the recycling company. This company will recycle your plastic corks.

However, this can only be possible if you have a lot of wine corks. Hardly can you generate a lot of synthetic wine corks except you work in a bar. Due to this, most corks are trashed and used in landfills.

During recycling, plastic corks are compressed and melted. The company then molds the melted plastic into another product.

Can You Compost Wine Corks?

Natural wine corks are eco-friendly. If you cannot go through the process of recycling, you can toss them in your compost can. The natural wine corks are manufactured from a tree and, as such, are organic products.

Once you throw your natural cork into your compost bin, over time, it will decay. You can get organic manure, which you can use in your garden from the decayed corks. To speed up the decay process, you can shred and grind the corks.

When you want to compost your cork, you must ensure that it is not a plastic cork that you place in your compost can. This is because plastic is an organic product. In turn, it will not break down or provide nutrients to your compost pile. In fact, it will only contaminate it.

However, note that some companies manufacture synthetic corks from biopolymers that are gotten from plants. Biopolymer synthetic corks have some environmental advantages. Regardless of this, the cork is still plastic, and hardly will you see plastic break down like any organic materials.

Even more, it might be challenging to tell the exact type of plastic used. As such, it would be best if you didn’t put plastic corks in your compost pile.

Also, when composting your real cork, remove every plastic material used to wrap the cork. This plastic includes the screw lid, foil cover, etc.

assorted-wine-corks
Source: Canva

Are Corks Biodegradable?

When you finish your bottles of wine, are you left with a box filled with real corks? Does this worry you because you cannot access any recycling organization? You do not need to bother yourself anymore. You can toss your corks into your garbage bin without any fear of causing considerable harm to the ecosystem. This is because real corks are biodegradable.

An object or material is said to be biodegradable if you can break the material down naturally. Such breakdown or decay can do the climate no harm. From this, you can say that natural corks are eco-friendly material because they can quickly decompose.

As we have said earlier, companies manufacture natural corks from the bark of oak trees, dried, and then processed into corks. So, like any organic material or plant, it is capable of naturally breaking down and decomposing.

However, a real cork may fail to pass as a biodegradable if the gum used to bind it together is not removed. Again, a cork might not be biodegradable if you do not remove all the artificial materials used to wrap it before dumping it in. The best way to remove any synthetic material from the cork is to cut the cork open and chop it into smaller pieces. The process will not only help get rid of the artificial materials. It will also help in speeding up the breakdown of the cork.

You should also note that artificial or synthetic corks are not biodegradable. Manufacturers of synthetic corks use plastic, and naturally, plastic does not break down like organic material.

We recommended that you dump your artificial cork with its bottle in the recycle can. Synthetic or plastic corks are not eco-friendly and be careful not to dispose of them irresponsibly.

Are Corks Worth Money?

Yes! If you have a box full of wine corks, you can make some stipends from it. All you need to do is to clean them and separate the real from the artificial. When you have done this, you can snap and post online for potential buyers. Vintage wine corks are of higher value because they are antique.

Also, craft persons who make aesthetic stuff from corks are willing to pay for your corks. If you are also craft-smart, you can do some craft work with your wine corks such as Foot Mats, Coasters, Keychain, Cork trivet, etc. Then, you can sell them to make money.

What Can You Do with Old Corks? (Ways to Reuse)

After popping your wine, if you are craft smart, you can do diverse work of arts with your cork. Yes, disposing of them should be the last thing on your mind. In fact, with a little patience and skill, you can create beauties that light your face. So, are you looking to jump in on this? In this article, we will be looking at aesthetic ways you can reuse your cork.

1. Garden Markers

Do you have an herb garden? You can use your wine corks to label plants in your garden. You can do this by using a permanent marker to write the herb’s name on the cork. Once you have successfully written the herb name, install a long toothpick in the cork, then place it in the herb pot.

2. Keychain

Your wine cork can also function as an exotic Keychain. Beyond the aesthetic look of your keychain, they are also functional. They can help you keep your keys afloat should your key fall in a pool or beach.

3. Keeper of Milestone

You can write the date and relished events on corks. You can then put the corks inside a crystal-clear tall glass vase on your table or your shelf.

4. Foot Mat

You can reuse your wine corks as a foot mat. To craft the foot mat, you need to cut the corks and string them tightly together.

5. Coasters

You can also transform your corks into a small tray for placing your wine glass or ashtray. The coaster is also useful for the protection of your table surface.

6. Wine Cork Candle

You can also use your wine cork as a candle. You can do this by dropping the corks in a bowl full of alcohol for a couple of days. We recommend that you use this candle only during outdoor activities.

7. Cork Trivet

You can use your corks as a trivet to sit your hot pots, pan, dish, etc. You can also paint your cork trivet to give it an exquisite and colorful look.

8. Cork Hot Pot Holder

You can attach the cork to the lids of your pots. The corked lid will prevent you from burning your finger when lifting hot lids off your pot.  

9. Cork Clip

If you have an opened foodstuff bag, you can use your wine cork as a clip to tighten the bag. The cork clip will prevent spilling and air from entering.

10. Flooring

You can also use wine corks for flooring. You can give your apartment an exquisite look by using your wine corks for interlocking design on your floor.

When you are trying to reuse your cork, do not reuse your old cork to seal a new wine. Bacteria may have contaminated the old cork, which in turn may infect your wine. On health grounds, it is not advisable.

Conclusion

You have got to know that making new corks takes a considerable amount of time. And considering how long it takes, you should recycle your corks to produce other materials. Also, corks are environmentally friendly materials. You can dispose of your corks in your compost pile. As an organic material, it will break down, decay over time, and become organic manure to nourish your garden.

Also, rather than dropping your wine cork off at a landfill, you can reuse your corks for several purposes listed above. If you are not good at craftworks, you can easily sell your cork for cash to craft people.

We have discussed all this. So, read up and have fun!

References:

https://www.treehugger.com/why-and-how-to-recycle-wine-bottle-corks-4868658

https://www.winc.com/blog/ways-to-reuse-wine-corks

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