There are few things as delightful as popping the cork on a bottle of wine, but the next time you hear that sound, consider the humble stopper.
It takes 25 years before a cork tree is mature enough to be used; afterward, it can be harvested just once a decade. And though cork is natural, reusable and biodegradable, most of the 13 billion corks popped globally each year end up in a landfill. But that's starting to change.
In 2008, Amorin, the world's largest maker of natural corks, launched a pilot project called ReCork America to collect and recycle corks in Northern California. To date, the program has salvaged more than 6 million corks, which have been incorporated into useful goods, including shoe soles (footwear maker Sole is a partner) and flooring.
That kind of success has led to the program's expansion. Today, a dozen Whole Foods stores in California serve as collection points, and eco-minded wine shops and restaurants from coast to coast are contributing corks. The latest partner is the Aria hotel in the new Las Vegas City Center.
To find a collection spot near you, check ReCork's website. Or, if you've saved a large quantity (a minimum of 15 pounds), you can ship them directly to ReCork (pre-paid shipping label provided).
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