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?