Cork- The Most Sustainable and Renewable Resource on the Planet

Cork one of the planet's most sustainable and renewable resources.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

It is one of the planet’s most sustainable and renewable resources. Image: Pixabay

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We know cork in its most traditional forms, as a stopper used in wine or champagne bottles. But cork has been around for centuries and used for many purposes. In 3000 BC, it was being used in fishing tackle. In the 4th century BC, it was found to be used in women’s footwear and roofing materials. Cork was chosen for ship masts because it was exceptionally strong and never rotted.

Cork grows naturally in two areas of the world the Mediterranean region of Europe and Northwest Africa. The phellem layer of bark tissues is harvested from the cork oak. The cork industry is generally considered environmentally friendly because trees are not cut down. The bark can only be harvested when the trees reach 25- 30 years of age and measure about 24 inches in circumference. It will take nine to twelve years for the bark to grow back thick enough to be harvested again.

A cork tree can be harvested multiple times in its 200- 300 year lifespan. After harvest, as the trees grow back their bark, they will soak up five times more carbon from the atmosphere. After harvesting, the cork planks are stacked outside to cure for up to six months. A combination of fresh air, sun, wind and rain causes chemical changes that improve the quality of the cork. Natural corks will biodegrade entirely and can be easily recycled without producing toxic residues.

Cork consists of a honeycomb of microscopic cells filled with an air-like gas, which gives it a range of interesting qualities. The material is waterproof, buoyant, elastic, fire-resistant and unique in its appearance. Its reputation of natural cork stoppers has remained untouched over centuries, but now people are looking at other uses for this ecological, recyclable and biodegradable material. Cork is currently being used as insulation in homes. After taking the cork from a wine bottle, it can be ground, placed into moulds and injected with steam to form insulation blocks.

Additionally, cork binds to itself, so no additional binding agents are required. Using cork as insulation will reduce your carbon footprint and decrease the energy needed to heat or cool your home. Cork also offers good sound insulation, absorbing up to 70% of tones.

Cork can also be recycled and re-used during the manufacturing process as all material taken from the cork tree is used, whether it be to make wine stoppers, flooring or insulation, and there is virtually no waste. It is one of the planet’s most sustainable and renewable resources. Because of its versatility as a material and its qualities, we should be turning to cork for building, fashion and general uses to help reduce our impact on the planet.

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