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Global cork recycling & replanting plans

The largest natural cork stopper producer, Amorim, is supporting a world-wide recycling and replanting initiative.

This follows the highly successful campaign last year, watched by over 500,000 viewers, that highlighted the benefits of, and threats to, the indigenous cork oak forests of Portugal. Many hundreds of ‘virtual’ cork oaks were ‘planted’ on Google Earth in support.

This is now becoming a reality. In the US, ReCORK America – the ecological recycling programme sponsored by Amorim – is calling on consumers to turn in their used wine corks at almost 30 Northern California branches of Whole Foods Markets, one of the leading organic foods supermarket chains.

Napa Valley winery Cuvaison joined forces with the programme not only to plant up to 1,000 new cork oaks in Portuguese forests, but to encourage consumers to recycle their cork stoppers at the winery tasting rooms in Calistoga and Carneros.

In South Africa, Amorim and Spier - the scenic Stellenbosch estate with its own luxury hotel – are launching a cork recycling initiative in one of the Winelands’ most touristic destinations.  All corks pulled from bottles in the popular restaurants will be collected in eye-catching containers, and eventually put to a myriad of uses from cork flooring to shoe soles.

The UK is supporting recycling too. Late last year, Tony Laithwaite, chairman of Laithwaites - the world largest independent wine merchant - planted a cork oak in his Theale Vineyard to commemorate the start of an innovative programme.  Each year, Amorim will plant dozens of new cork oaks in the Mediterranean forests on behalf of Laithwaites.  The natural cork eventually harvested from these trees will supply quality wine stoppers for the company well into the next century.

In addition, Laithwaites has installed recycling bins at its Head Office for employees and customers to fill with their old cork stoppers.

In Portugal itself, Amorim has just launched the first fully-licenced facility for processing these recycled cork stoppers in the world. Opened last week by the Secretary of State for the Environment, the unit’s objective is to absorb approximately 90 million corks, or 30% of the national market, over the next four years.

This will be achieved in conjunction with Portugal’s Green Cork recycling campaign, working with the leading supermarket chain Continente as well as over 10,000 restaurants across the country. The money paid by Amorim for these returned stoppers will be used towards ‘Creating Forests’ - a programme of conservation and restoration of the Portuguese cork forests that aims to plant over one million new trees.

“These initiatives will extend the life cycle of cork stoppers for decades, as the reconstituted cork granules are incorporated into everything flooring and insulation tiles, to sports products, fashion items and aerospace materials’ explains Carlos de Jesus, Amorim’s communications director.

“This is just the start.  As consumers – and retailers – throughout the world become increasingly aware of the importance of 100% recyclable materials, we will see the start of many more programmes like this.

“Saving corks and depositing them in special bins will become a way of life for everyone. Just as our unique processing facility will play a vital role in the expanding natural cork recycling chain.”

Mar 09

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1 March 2009 - Felicity Murray