Consumers who enjoy a glass of wine this patio season can feel even better knowing every part of the bottle will be recycled. Starting today, thanks to a new partnership, used natural wine corks collected at the Return-It Boucherie Self Storage and Bottle Depot in Kelowna will be recycled into eco-friendly footwear.
The new initiative is a strategic partnership between Return-It, an industry owned, not-for-profit, product stewardship agency with beverage container management as its core mandate; ReCORK, North America's largest natural wine cork recycling program; and SOLE, a manufacturer of sustainable footwear that turns used wine corks into an ecologically-friendly replacement for fossil fuel-derived foams.
The power of cork
Sustainably harvested from trees, cork is a carbon-negative material that can be repurposed into new consumer items like footwear cushioning to help replace petroleum-based foams and plastics. As an important climate benefit, cork oak forests continue absorbing CO2 after the bark is removed.
- For each tonne of cork harvested, the forest absorbs 70 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.1
- Harvesting the bark boosts the cork oak tree’s carbon consumption three to five times, and can extend the tree’s lifespan to over 300 years.2
- Each pair of recycled cork footbeds, shoes and sandals contains between 22 and 60 wine corks.3 In addition to being environmentally friendly, cork footwear cushioning is naturally elastic, moisture-wicking, odour-reducing, foot-molding and supportive.
How does it work?
Recycling your natural wine corks helps replace environmentally harmful, petroleum-based materials in consumer products with a natural, sustainable alternative.
Once consumers have dropped off their used, natural wine corks at the collection facility, the material will be sent to ReCORK for processing, then used by SOLE to manufacture eco-friendly alternatives to environmentally harmful materials for shoes and sandals.
Not Accepted Corks
- Why are you launching this program?
We initiated this pilot program to collect and recycle this useful material into new products so we can keep it out of landfills. For Return-It, the program is an opportunity to utilize our depot infrastructure to collect this material so it doesn't end up in our natural environment. It also reflects our core social purpose to foster a world where nothing is waste, to create a better future for people, communities and the planet through recycling, education and strategic partnerships.
- How does the recycling process work?
Cork is a carbon-negative material that can be repurposed into new consumer items like footwear to help replace petroleum-based foams and plastics. Once consumers have dropped off their used, natural wine corks at the Return-It Boucherie Self Storage and Bottle Depot in Kelowna, the material will be picked up and sent to ReCORK for processing, then used by SOLE to manufacture eco-friendly footwear products.
- What does the collected cork get turned into?
Once the corks are processed, they will be turned into sustainable footwear and insoles to reduce the need for environmentally-harmful foams.
- What are the benefits of using recycled cork for footwear cushioning?
In addition to reducing the need for foams derived from petroleum products, using recycled cork prolongs the life of an incredible sustainable, versatile material. In addition to being environmentally friendly, it’s naturally elastic, moisture-wicking, naturally anti-microbial (odor-reducing) and insulating.
- Why are the corks being recycled in Alberta and not BC?
ReCORK's Canadian cork collection facility is located in Calgary, AB.
- What kind of volumes are you expecting to collect?
It’s too early to speculate on metrics, but we are encouraging consumers to support this new pilot program by bringing in their corks so that we can collect and recycle as many corks as possible.
- Do other provinces have similar programs?
ReCORK provides cork processing services to other jurisdictions in North America. However, this pilot represents Return-It’s first program to recycle and reuse this material.
- Why isn’t artificial cork accepted in the program?
ReCORK’s recycling stream deals exclusively with natural cork. The properties of natural and synthetic cork are totally different and thus synthetic corks can ruin the material batches of natural cork. Natural cork is suitable for use in creating alternatives to petroleum foams and plastics in ways that synthetic corks are not.
- Why is natural cork better than artificial cork?
Natural cork has several advantages over artificial cork. For each tonne of cork harvested, the forest absorbs 70 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. Harvesting the bark also boosts the cork oak tree’s carbon consumption three to five times, and can extend the tree’s lifespan to over 300 years.
- Is natural cork from whiskey and beer bottles accepted?
Any natural cork is accepted as long as it contains ONLY natural cork. Any foil wrappings, plastic attachments or other foreign materials can contaminate the material batch and undermine the cork recycling process.
- Can corks be recycled at other depots? What happens to that material if it’s brought to a location that’s not part of the pilot?
At this early stage of the program, only corks brought into the Return-It Boucherie Self Storage and Bottle Depot in Kelowna can be recycled. We are optimistic the initiative will be introduced to other cities in the province following a successful pilot.
- What comes next after the pilot?
Based on the success of the pilot, the initiative may be introduced at Return-It collection facilities throughout British Columbia.