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We all know that cork is 100% recyclable and that it is also 100% sustainable.  It is a wondrous material that is so critical for the Earth and its inhabitants.  The big question then becomes, how do I, as a responsible citizen of plant Earth and a lover of cork, because of course, it is in all my rooms, on the floors and covering the walls, how do I go one step further and make sure than I am part of the cycle of sustainability of this material?  In short, how do I recycle my cork products?
There are initiatives across the globe to recycle cork products, and many new ones are springing up each day.  Many focus recycling cork wine stoppers, but other local initiatives can also help you recycle your cork flooring and cork wall covering products as needed.  These products are obviously kept in the home much longer than your average wine bottle stopper, so the immediate and popular need is for cork wine stoppers.  No cork that has been harvested from the cork oak tree is ever wasted.  100% of the material is used in a multitude of products; even the cork dust is used to generate energy.  If it can be that concise when it is harvested, we can be just as responsible as consumers.
Cork Re-Harvest has been collecting cork wine stoppers since 2008.  They also educate the public about montados and biodiversity, as well as raising awareness of the threatened extinction of endangered animals that find refuge in the forest areas of Portugal and Mediterranean areas of similar climate and biodiversity. In addition to their sustainable recycling efforts, Cork Re-Harvest strives to keep their organization’s carbon footprint low so as not to completely undo the good they are trying to accomplish through the recycling cork program.
In December of 2012, American Airlines announced their creation of the Sustainability Alliance.  In this Alliance, “organizations will identify opportunities for innovation in airport operations, resulting in economic and environmental benefits for American, DFW Airport and their customers.”  In 1989, the American Airline flight attendants began their first recycling initiative by recycling aluminum cans from the passengers.  Since this programs inception, over 12 million aluminum cans have been recycled – enough to fill 4 Boeing 737s!  This recycling initiative has been expanded since 1989 to additionally recycle paper, plastic cups and bottles, and corks from wine bottles.  
These are just a few of the recycling initiative programs that have gained notoriety within the United States.  There are many programs worldwide, from the Girls Guides program founded in 1992 in Australia to NABU in Germany.  These recycling programs are committed to keeping the environment clean and supporting the cork industry across the globe.
Our best advice, if you are looking to recycle cork in your area, is to first contact your local recycling initiative, usually found through your waste municipality.  Once you have exhausted your local resources, you may want to check out www.earth911.com for more recycling options or one of the initiatives we mentioned here today.  And if you feel inspired, start a cork recycling program in your city!  Contact your local restaurants and resorts to ask them to donate their cork wine stoppers to your program.  Ask your friends and family to donate theirs too.  Then YOU will be the local guru on how to recycle cork flooring and cork wall coverings as well!  It may start small, but don’t all things in the beginning?  Your impact certainly won’t be small though; it will last for generations to come!

May 16, 2013

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