When one thinks of Cork, one of the first things to come to mind are the wine stoppers. Not without reason - over 60% of all cork production goes into making of wine stoppers. The fact that it is impermeable, extremely resistant to elastic deformation (the radius does not change upon being pressed) and does not crack easily makes it very suitable for the purpose.
However, the same properties of Cork, in addition to being lightweight and a fire retardant, has led it to be used increasingly in manufacturing a whole host of things, such as yoga mats to handbags to footwear to sports equipment to flooring. Arguably, Cork is one of the most sustainable alternative raw materials available today.
Cork production is highly concentrated. About 50% of all cork production worldwide happens in Portugal, with another 30% approximately coming from Spain. An estimated 300,000-350,000+ tonnes are harvested annually.
Cork is made from the water-repellant bark of cork oak trees, which takes about 9 years to regrow after it is harvested. The cork harvesting is first started after the trees are at least 25 years old, and then is continued periodically (every 9 years, approximately) for the entire life span of the tree, which can be as much as 300 years.
Clearly, what makes cork such a sustainable raw material is that even as the bark is harvested, the tree lives on. During the course of its lifetime, a single cork tree can yield over 1.5 tonnes of Cork!
The most interesting part in this whole process is the fact that every time the bark is removed from the tree, the consumption of CO2 by the tree gets increased (multiple times the normal) to aid the regenerative process. Over its lifetime, the more the cork is harvested, the more CO2 the tree absorbs as it tries to regenerate the bark. Cork Oak forests are therefore great carbon sinks.
At ONEarth, we love the dynamism and uniqueness that Cork brings to products. Since no two processed pieces of cork are the same, all cork products look uniquely different and have an indisputably earthy and natural feel to them.
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