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Small Steps Add Up: Recycling with Cork Reharvest

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.