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Cork ReHarvest

Cork ReHarvest Logo Ever feel guilty about tossing a wine cork into the trash? You should! Truth be told, I’ve thrown away a few wine corks myself. But not anymore. Cork is a renewable, recyclable material that doesn’t belong in our landfills. What to do? Bring your corks to our stores, drop them in the handy Cork ReHarvest boxes and feel good again! Cork ReHarvestStarting today, Whole Foods Market partners with Cork ReHarvest to make it easy for wine enthusiasts to properly dispose of cork at all of our 292 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Since 2008, the nonprofit and Rainforest Alliance-endorsed Cork ReHarvest has led the cork recycling movement in North America, helping to collect and recycle some of the 13 billion natural corks that are produced each year. Cork recycling helps to reduce demand placed on cork plantations while maintaining the delicate ecosystem of the Mediterranean forests and helps thousands of producers maintain a sustainable income to support their families. Thanks to World Wildlife Fund and Rainforest Alliance, here are some interesting facts and figures on the Mediterranean cork forests:
  • Approximately 6.6 million acres of Mediterranean cork forest extend across Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France.
  • Oak forests support one of the world’s highest levels of forest biodiversity.
  • Natural cork extraction is one of the most environmentally friendly harvesting methods in the world. Not a single tree is cut down in the process. Instead, renewable bark is stripped by hand every 9-12 years and cork oaks can live up to 300 years.
  • Cork oak trees store carbon in order to regenerate their bark, and a harvested cork oak tree absorbs up to five times more [carbon dioxide] than one that isn’t harvested.
  • Additionally, no bark is wasted during the cork production process, and the residue is granulated to make other cork products and even cork dust is used for fuel.
Cork ReHarvest2I’m betting some astute readers out there are asking: “What’s the environmental impact of this recycling program? Does it make sense to pack up and ship cork around the country for recycling?” We thought about that too. Here’s the deal: Corks make their entire journey from our stores to recycling centers on trucks already in-route to each destination with virtually zero increase in carbon footprint. Corks are sent to our distribution centers on trucks already headed that way then picked up by FedEx trucks (another Cork ReHarvest partner) that are passing by our distribution centers en route to their destinations, which include a stop at cork recycling partners. Curious what all those corks become in their new life? West of the Rockies, corks will be delivered to Western Pulp, where they will be turned into recyclable wine shippers containing 10% cork. In the Midwest, corks will be sent to Yemm & Hart, which produces cork floor tiles. And on the East Coast and in the UK, corks will be transported to Jelinek Cork Group, one of the oldest cork manufacturers in North America, where old corks will be made into post-consumer products. Cork Banner So, enjoy that next bottle of wine with a newfound satisfaction of knowing exactly what to do with the cork!

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121 comments

Comments

Sam Nielson says …

Nice idea, but it seems that the only really useful thing about this is reducing the landfill a modicum. It seems that 'recycling' them into new products only opens up the market for cork in new areas, thus increasing demand. Additionally, wine bottling people won't use recycled cork, so that demand is not reduced either. If we wanted to reduce the demand, we should stop finding uses for it. And it wouldn't hurt to stop making wine either. No need for corks if there isn't a bottle to cork. It is good to look at what we are doing and try to be more circumspect in our footprint, but to really count, we simply don't want to move. I'll worry about cork, when you can stop wine drinkers, that waste of human ability, that waste of glass (even if it is recycled later), that waste of agricultural land/effort to produce it rather that useful food, etc. Whole segments of the food market could be dropped if we were more responsibly 'green'. What about the sugars, other alcohols, and their associated packaging?

Lindalee says …

I was hoping to get some money for my large natural cork collection. Is this possible? We get money for recycling can tops, glass bottles and cans... why not cork?? Thanks

Ann says …

I tried calling the store here in Hawaii but they didn't know about the cork donation box. I have a couple hundred corks that I'd love to drop off.

TheGreenCat says …

The Columbus Circle Whole Foods here in NYC still does not have any idea what I'm talking about when I ask them where their drop box is. So not ALL stores participate in this program. It would be great if they did!

Patricia Page says …

Some corks are obviously plastic; others are obviously natural cork. But some appear to be a blend. When in doubt, keep it out (of the Whole Foods recycling)? It's important to know because I'm setting up multi-family "Beyond Curbside" recycling for several locations in my town. Thanks for expanding the world of recycling.

paig292 says …

@Patricia Page Here's what Cork Reharvest had to say: "Great question! There are a number of factors in what makes a cork a "natural cork". First lets start with the plastic closures, right now it's tough for some customers to know what is cork and what is plastic. The plastic closure companies have begun printing their closures to look like natural cork and that confuses the heck out of most people. I don't know if we'll ever be able to keep them out of the mix altogether, but for the most part we're seeing only about 1% in the corks we get from WFM stores. Now for natural cork, there are three type of natural cork: Solid, all cork, all the time Agglomerated/Colmated, ground natural cork bits mixed with trace amounts of FDA approved adhesive. Think Champagne corks One and One/Twin Tops, these are corks that are algomerated, but have solid cork on each end I hope this helped, please let me know if there is anything else you need."

Lori B says …

This is fantastic and never knew of such a program! We have saved bags of corks over the course of years, couldn't bear to throw out. Now we can make good use of them. Thanks Whole Foods!

Jane Irvin says …

YEAH what a brilliant idea!

Joyce says …

Why aren't corks reused as . . . corks? just asking.

Emily says …

Are there cork recycling boxes at any of the Cambridge, MA, Whole Foods stores? If so, which one/s? Thank you.

Bepkom says …

All of our stores have cork recycling programs. If you don't see a container on the sales floor of the wine department you should ask a Team Member for assistance. Thanks!

The Green Cat says …

@Michael Bepko: Please be clear. Perhaps all of your stores that have WINE DEPARTMENTS have cork collections but not ALL of your stores have it. The Columbus Circle store in Manhattan (which does not have a wine department) does not collect corks and have not heard of the program. If this has changed, you should let them know!

Sengdara says …

Thank you for this article, I never knew Whole Foods Market have a drop box recycle for wine corks.

Sengdara says …

Great article, thanks for the info. #houserunner

Bepkom says …

Yes, The Green Cat, thank you for the correction! Our stores that do not sell wine may or may not be collecting wine corks but the stores that do have wine departments will collect them.

Paul says …

I just picked up the "cork facts" flyer at the Plantation store. It seems confusing. The 4th bullit point wants wine drinkers not to use screw caps and plastic stoppers because cork is a vital source of income for families. Then why recycle the natural cork stoppers? Thanks, Paul

Bepkom says …

Paul: Thanks for your question! Wine corks are typically repurposed into flooring or wall panels and not recycled for use in other wine bottles.

Charles says …

Our Asst Winemaker insists that the caps we use for Wine By Joe ARE recyclable. Is he accurate?

Jeanne says …

Why don't the Hawaii stores have the cork recycling program? Your website states at ALL stores in the US, Canada and UK accept it so what's the problem? Hawaii is part of the USA! Lame on you Whole Foods!

faith says …

I couldn't find the box in my local whole foods... have you stopped collecting?

Pamela Salmen says …

I live in Redondo Beach, CA and have never seen a cork recycling bin at any of the Whole Foods I have visited. Where the heck are they??? I'd love to be a contributor! Pamela Salmen

Bepkom says …

@Pamela: There are usually kept in the wine department but if you still can't find it you can ask at the Customer Service desk.

Melanie says …

I made a special trip of taking all my corks to the whole foods at Columbus Circle in New York City and was told that that location DID NOT recycle corks and that I had to bring them to the store on 97th St. After having spent $4.50 for the subway ride, and the inconvenience of shlepping an infant there, needless to say I was disappointed. If you could make it more clear on your website which locations do recycle it would be infinitely better. Along the same lines, a friend of mine had a similar problem trying to recycle her batteries.

Bepkom says …

@Melanie: Because the services and product selection can vary between stores, we often suggest calling your local store ahead of time to ensure they have what you're looking for. Regardless, we're sorry for the inconvenience of all that traveling and we'll ask the store to post that information on their website.

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Thank you, I have just been looking for information about this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I have discovered so farBut, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?

Sue says …

Somewhere I found a website that said that if I had 200 or more corks they would reimburse me for shipping, but I cannot find the website any more. I have over 200 corks for recycling, but do not have a whole foods. Please advise. Thnx Sue

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bob says …

Dropping off 2,500 corks today (9-6-2011) at WF Chelsea. I've been saving for years, looking for a way to recycle. Thanks...

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says …

@Maryanne Very cool! Your store should be happy to share the corks with you. I have reached out to the Princeton store and asked them to contact you. Have fun with that craft project and post back pictures when you're done!

Maryanne Stahley says …

I would like to know if I would be able to purchase about 300 of these corks for a crafting project I am doing. These are the first corks I have come across. I was in your Princeton store yesterday and saw the salvage box, these are just what I would like to have. I look forward to your answer. Thank you for checking this out for me.

jeffw says …

Really??? Put a cork in it! If there was a Whole Foods Market here I would boycott it, so there!!

Wine Lover says …

"Starting today, Whole Foods Market partners with Cork ReHarvest to make it easy for wine enthusiasts to properly dispose of cork at all of our 292 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom." Congratulations on the excellent initiative! The idea of cork recycling is great specially now that we are experiencing climate change due to a growing population and continued garbage generation. Some people may think what a single cork can do to help save the environment, well nothing much but if you collect them together by the thousands it will be huge. Take care!

Carol Covin says …

Our church collects them and takes them to Whole Foods to recycle. Great program!

Carolyn says …

Is WF still doing this? My store in Abington didn't have a box last time we were there...?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CAROLYN - Were you able to ask the store if they are still recycling corks but maybe don't have a box any longer? I know that my local store has moved to more of a large glass vase for recycling corks. I wasn't able to find a store in the city of Abington as I was going to find out for you. If you want to reach out to your local store, ask the Guest Services desk as they should know if the program is still happening. Find their info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.

Gloria says …

I'm THRILLED about this cork recycling program! I have been saving up all my corks, waiting to find a program like this! :-)

Dora says …

This is very interesting. Will definitely share this to my students so they'll appreciate the value of cork.

Tina Madland says …

I'm happy to hear about this program. Question...what do you do with the artificial "corks" that you receive? Do you sort the corks, or are they sorted elsewhere? If they are sorted elsewhere, do you know what happens to the artificial ones? I'd like to share information about Cork ReHarvest with fellow employees (sort of a "Did You Know?" thing), so I'd like to be well-informed. I see more and more artificial corks, so I'm wondering what, if anything can be done with those. Thank you!!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@TINA - It will vary between stores whether the corks are sorted at the store or once they are sent in. I believe the plastic corks are thrown away. Before putting together the info, you can reach out to the Cork Reharvest project directly at http://www.corkforest.org/contact_us.php.

Lindsay says …

I am collecting corks for my wedding center pieces ....do you think whole foods would allow me to take courts from the recycle program? Ill after the wedding I will have no use for them and would put them back into the recycle bins!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LINDSAY - I would suggest reaching out to your local store. They might work with you to help gather some and then recycle later!

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