Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Can you Compost Wine Corks?

I have a hard time throwing away wine corks. After all the work of screwing in the wine key and pulling out the cork to open the wine (and then the following “work” of drinking), I can easily toss the bottle into the recycling bin, but then I have this cork.

Since my “cork” consumption peaks during the holidays, I recently found myself staring at a collection of discarded corks and I had a revelation. Could these be composted?

Natural cork is an amazing resource made from sustainably harvested tree bark. They don’t even need to cut down the tree, they just pull off the bark and then it grows back like a sheep’s wool.

So, being natural and wood-like, cork should break down in the compost pile, right?

After some research I discovered if you want your wine cork to compost in this century you need to grind them up in a blender first. Cork is naturally impermeable- which makes it perfect for plugging a bottle of vino but makes composting a bit tricky. Grinding the cork will speed up the decomposition process.

Fortunately, there are many other uses for your unused cork if blending sounds too tedious:

1. Use them in the bottom of planters as an alternative to Styrofoam. The lightweight cork will help with plant drainage.

2. If you’re a crafty person, there are a myriad of projects you can take on. Here are some ideas: http://craftingagreenworld.com/2009/01/21/crafty-reuse-ten-projects-for-old-wine-corks/

3. You can also bring your corks to Whole Foods to recycle. http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/cincinnati/

One final note, make sure your cork is real cork. Synthetic cork will not decompose like natural cork and will not work well for the options above either. Here’s a website that should help you tell the difference and you'll learn more about natural cork: http://100percentcork.org/cork.php/why-cork.

Since I do not have a crafty bone in my body, I think I’ll start using corks in planters. I may try to compost a few too just to see how it works.

What do you do with your wine corks?

12 comments:

  1. Gee, so much to know about corks. I think I'll concentrate on wine itself. Thanks for the info!

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  2. I too have a tough time throwing my corks out and consequently have a bunch saved in a drawer. I'm not about to run them through a food processor so I guess I will take them on down to Whole Foods. Thanks for the ideas.

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  3. Yeah, Whole Foods has a pretty easy drop off. I was just there last night and they also have a drop off for #5 plastics (yogurt cups) which are recycled into items like toothbrushes!

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  4. I like the planter idea--I'd much rather have corks in the soil than Styrofoam. I'll take my yogurt cups to Whole Foods--I have a big stack waiting for it's future home! Thanks for the info!

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  5. If you live in Texas near a Spec's Liquor ....they recycle all of them and donate to Cancer Research!

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  6. I've also heard the Jungle Jim's in Fairfield accepts wine corks. Probably to use in some spectacularly wacky decoration.

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  7. According to Bianca Howard of Raleigh Recycling, these two companies will give you money for your corks:

    "Terracycle and Yemm & Hart both have wine cork recycling programs. For more information, visit

    http://www.terracycle.net/en-US/brigades/cork-brigade.html and

    http://www.yemmhart.com/news+/winecorkrecycling.htm

    snowolffbook@gmail.com

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    1. Terracycle used to have a cork recycling brigade.
      But sadly no more.

      I guess Terracycle feels there's not enough environmentalist drinkers.

      But Yemm Hart still does recycle corks....so no blenders needed. So I will be sending over my one cork, since that is all I have right now.

      This has nothing really to do with recycling, but I recently tried Flip Flop Moscato, not the pink kind, the regular one, and it has a twist top lid and no cork! And I paid just $5.99 for it. I highly recommend it.

      But QuakerArtist, thank you for the link to let other crazy recyclers, like myself, know about the cork recycling.

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  8. Thanks for the info, QuakerArtist!

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  9. Of course, what a magnificent blog and informative posts, I will bookmark your site.Best Regards!

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  10. Corks are not compostable because they have a wax coating - therefore they need to be dropped off at a site to have them ground down for recyclability. Amorim also has these sites and should be contacted. If you put a natural cork into the ground it will be there, in tact, 50 years later. It is a fallacy that it goes back to nature. And the thing about natural cork being preferable - yes, it's preferable if it's a high end cork which might cost the winery $1 for one cork. Most of the wine drank that cost you <$30 is when the cork company takes the waste, bleaches it, then glues it together to form a cork shape (agglomerated or twin disk). These corks tend to have a high TCA percentage which gives the wine a musky taste. Same as being 'Corked'.

    Synthetic cork - at least the co-extruded ones, like Nomacorc is fully level 4 recyclable and therefore can be put out with your other recyclables not your garbage. They are recycled mostly into pool toys, pool linings, and toothbrushes. Not a bad thing - and it's a by product of oil production, is done within the U.S. and has a lower Carbon Footprint. Plus it's much more affordable for the winery and they don't have to raise the price of the wine to get good cork, or settle with a high percentage of corked wines - approximately 10%+ of lower price point bottles.

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    1. Thanks for the interesting info on the different types of natural and synthetic corks.

      I would like to caution that synthetic corks are not recyclable curbside bin in Hamilton County, Ohio. Check with your local recycling agency to make sure this can be easily separated in your recycling facility because it would not be separated in the Cincinnati area.

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