The Cork Tree is Never Felled
All of AmCork's sustainable cork flooring and wall covering products are all natural cork, made by harvesting only the bark of the cork oak. The tree itself is never felled. The bark requires periodic harvesting in order to preserve the longevity of the tree. Cork is made by harvesting bark about once a decade from the cork oak, and with regular and proper bark harvests, the trees live for more than a century.
Cork is an eminently sustainable material harvested from the living bark of the Cork Oak. The properties of cork are derived naturally from the structure and chemical composition of the inner cells. Each cubic centimeter of cork’s honeycomb structure contains between 30 and 40 million polyhedral (14 sided) cells (over 100 million cells per cubic inch). Cork is harvested in a steady cycle that promotes healthy growth to the tree over its expected lifespan of over 200 years. Though the Cork Oak "Quercus suber" can flourish in many climates, the conditions that favor commercial use lie in a fairly narrow swath that cuts through Western Europe and Northern Africa along the Mediterranean coast.
Cork producing nations
The major cork producing nations provide 2,200,000 hectares (5.4 million acres) of natural cork forest. This number, owing to the mutual efforts of the EEC and various environmental groups, is expected to increase due to the active efforts to protect existing forests and sponsorship of significant new plantings.
Typically, virgin cork is not removed from saplings until the 25th year, and reproduction cork (the first cycle) may not be extracted for another 9-12 years. Cork harvesting is done in a steady cycle that promotes healthy growth to the tree over its expected lifespan of over 200 years. Cork bark is removed from trees in spring or summer. At this time of year the cork comes away easily from the trunk because the tree is growing, the new, tender cork cells being generated break easily. In Portugal, trees are harvested every 9 years and on the island of Sardinia (Italy) the harvest occurs every 12 years.
Quality & Balance
As land is being passed between generations, there is increased interest in forest management. There is an emphasis on creating balance in a tree, much like a grapevine, whereby a properly managed tree has the optimal balance of leaves, branches and cork for vitality. Additionally, cork producers have more active representation in the field and are continually working on increasing cork quality where it starts – in the forest. The natural cork industry comprises one of the world’s most important Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP).
Protecting the Cork Tree
The first Portuguese regulations protecting cork oak trees date to 1320 by then King Dinis. During the 1920s and ‘30s, it became illegal to cut down trees to harvest cork, other than for essential thinning and removal of old, nonproductive trees. The manufacturing process of environmentally friendly flooring utilizes every bit of scrap bark for use as cork particles of fuel. As early as 2500BC cork was used as fishing floats in ancient Egypt and in 400 BC cork was also commonly used as stoppers for containers as well as soles for shoes.