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Small Steps Add Up: Recycling with Cork Reharvest

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, April 19, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

What I lack in crafty talent, I make up in friends who excel in creative crafting. For them DIY goes far beyond knitting a toaster cover. They are creating everyday items where style meets function and saving their bank account and the environment at the same time.

Take something simple thing like an old wine cork. Where I see something that already did its job, my friends see homemade bulletin boards, place card holders, stamps, candleholders and wreaths. (Yes, I’ve seen all of those objects created from corks.)

Inspired? Me too. After all, cork is a renewable, recyclable material, which means it doesn’t belong in our landfills.

However if you’re like me, you know that no matter how many wine corks you collect, you’ll likely never make a coaster, trivet or bath mat from them. But there is something very easy you can do – no talent required. Bring your corks to our stores and drop them in the handy Cork ReHarvest boxes.

Whole Foods Market partners with Cork ReHarvest to make it easy to properly dispose of natural cork at most of our 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.

Here are some commonly asked questions about the program:

Why are the cork forests so important? These forests contain some of the world's highest levels of forest biodiversity, including endemic plants and endangered species like the Iberian Lynx, the Iberian Imperial Eagle and the Barbary Deer.

What do all those corks become that I turn in at your store? West of the Rockies, corks are 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 are transported to Jelinek Cork Group, one of the oldest cork manufacturers in North America, where old corks will be made into post-consumer products.

What’s the environmental impact of this recycling program? Here’s the deal: the corks collected in our stores are sent to our distribution centers on trucks already headed that way. They're then picked up by FedEx trucks (another Cork ReHarvest partner) passing by our distribution centers en route to their destinations, which include a stop at cork recycling partners. Virtually no added carbon footprint.

Do you have more questions? Visit Cork ReHarvest’s FAQ page. Let’s raise a glass to small steps like cork recycling that can make a big difference. With Earth Day just a few days away, are you resolved to make a change to better the planet? If so, find out how you could win a year’s supply of Eco-Scale™ rated cleaning supplies from Better Life.

Have you been recycling your corks? If so, cheers to you! We’d like to hear about it.




Caroline says ...
Any idea how many/much Whole Foods has collected to recycle since this program started a few years ago?
04/20/2012 9:01:56 AM CDT
p says ...
yes, i recycle my corks, turning them into trivets. incredibly easy to do - just use a box picture frame (or one that has some depth) and lay the corks on their side so they fit tightly beside each other. don't even need to glue any but the corner pieces. just needs a little bit of time to arrange them right and get a good fit. Voila! tables preserved and corks reused. Plus each trivet is full of lovely memories of delicious wines and joy-filled meals with friends and loved ones!
04/20/2012 5:31:12 PM CDT
Diane says ...
I solved the problem by drinking box wine. Sure, it's not as "classy" but there are some decent tasting ones out there and I've never been one to care what other people think. I honestly never realized all this about cork forests but it's good to know I've been innately green like this.
04/22/2012 3:17:19 PM CDT
Lisa says ...
My local Whole Foods in Framingham, MA no longer has the cork recycling box at the entrance. When I asked what happened to it, and if they still took wine corks to be recycled, they explained they no longer participate as a partner. According to the website CorkReharvest.org, all 300 Whole Foods are currently participating partners. Is there a way for me to still recycle my wine corks by either mailing them to another Whole Foods or directly to CorkReharvest.org.
04/22/2012 4:37:58 PM CDT
leslie says ...
Like Dianne, I use box wine, too. But when I do open a bottle, I've noticed the corks aren't real cork any more. They feel like plastic. Are they still making cork corks?
04/23/2012 6:33:59 PM CDT
Kathryn Atwood says ...
I tuck them under the handles of the metal lids of my pots and pans. They are a perfect fit and I can pick up the lids using those when the lids are too hot!
04/23/2012 7:53:33 PM CDT
Dr. Alex says ...
I just found and used this idea this week! http://lifehacker.com/5903803/turn-wine-corks-into-plant-markers Using a sharpy gave me a bit of a challenge, but other wise it seems to hold up well. I used broken/small pencils as my spike in the garden.
04/24/2012 12:20:04 AM CDT
Megan says ...
@Leslie It depends on the wine maker. Many have switched to screw-tops. Of the wines I have bought recently, it seems about 50-50 in terms of whether the wine has a traditional cork or a screw-top.
04/24/2012 10:49:54 AM CDT
Megan says ...
@Lisa You can find other locations that work with CorkReharvest <a href="http://www.corkforest.org/finder.php" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">on their website here</a>. They do not want people shipping corks to them because of the fuel used getting there. You could also try either offering up your corks on Freecycle (someone crafty might want them) or this other cork recycling company, <a href="http://recork.org/get-involved/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">ReCork</a>.
04/24/2012 12:43:37 PM CDT
Michele says ...
What about those "corks" that appear to be made out of rubbery material, not actual cork?
04/25/2012 7:15:11 AM CDT
Megan says ...
@Michele Cork Reharvest only takes true cork. Your best bet for those rubbery corks might be to offer them up to a local crafter to see if they can be re-used!
04/25/2012 4:43:25 PM CDT
Manton Cork says ...
A wonderful way to recycle your wine corks is to transform them into fun and useful at-home craft projects or as a creative school project for your student’s show &amp; tell, etc. Contact us at www.mantoncork.com for more ideas.
07/03/2012 8:35:56 AM CDT
M Lawrence says ...
Is there somplace in Winnipeg where I can drop off used corks? Is there somplace in Canada that I can mail them to?
01/12/2013 3:37:46 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@M LAWRENCE - I would suggest reaching out to a store in your area to see if they accept cork recycling. This offer varies between our locations so unfortunately we do not have a list of stores participating. You can find a list of store contact info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.
01/22/2013 4:16:21 PM CST
Marty Crigler says ...
Hi, I am updating our A-Z recycling guide. Does Whole Food still have this program going? Is it nation/world wide? Thank you, Marty
02/21/2013 12:53:00 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MARTY - I double checked their website and it states that the corks are accepted at all of our locations in the US and Canada!
02/27/2013 4:56:49 PM CST
M Akehurst says ...
I live in the UK. I collected a bagful of corks for my daughter to make something with. She then changed her mind! I am loathe to just dump them! Where can I usefully take them? I live in the East of England.
03/04/2013 9:57:22 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MAKEHURST - Our UK store locations should take these but I would suggest reaching out to the exact store you will be visiting before you head that way. You can find a list of our UK store locations at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list/uk.
03/04/2013 4:35:52 PM CST
Mary Sawyer says ...
Today, I called your Houston store on Kirby about taking my corks to them for your reharvest program and was told your store no longer participates in the recycle program. Do any of your other stores in Houston accept corks and if not do you know who does. I do wish to discard them because I have a large amount of corks I have been collecting and I definitely could not afford to ship them to CA. Thanks for your response. Mary
03/14/2013 1:50:26 PM CDT
kate simpson says ...
My local Whole Foods in Rockville does not recycle wine corks and also informed that Maryland Whole Foods in general do not. I find it somewhat disingenuous of Whole Fields claiming to have all these reycling efforts which only exist in selective parts of the country.
07/01/2013 12:35:18 PM CDT
Harriet Kemper says ...
Whole Foods doesn't collect corks. I've tried two stores in the Los Angeles area, and they don't want them. BTW, I installed a cork floor in my kitchen...it's beautiful.
08/05/2013 11:37:30 PM CDT
Robin Allen says ...
Is it possible to recycle cork from products such as shoes?
11/16/2013 5:10:34 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ROBIN - It should be only for wine corks. You can call your local store for details.
11/18/2013 4:46:42 PM CST
Ragnar Thoresen says ...
Whole Foods in Washington DC advertises that the recycle cork but I haven't found one that will take by bag of cork yet.
11/21/2013 12:14:25 PM CST
Louisa cooper says ...
Does your Kailua, Oahu store recycle corks?
12/01/2013 8:23:09 PM CST