Environmental Issues

Screwcaps and synthetic bottle stoppers are environmentally wasteful.

The Portuguese cork producer Amorim has published a report showing a comparison of the environmental impacts and energy used to produce aluminium, plastic and cork materials and the carbon emissions involved.

Cork oak forests and the natural cork products derived from them are a major carbon sink and have an important role in sustainable development. The crucial role of cork in carbon dioxide retention, preserving biodiversity and combating desertification was highlighted in the report on sustainability, published recently by the company. In comparison, the mining and extraction of non-renewable resources such as petrochemicals and bauxite (used to produce aluminium) have very significant potentially negative impacts on ecosystems. Indeed, the report says, the primary production of a ton of aluminium emits on average 12 tons of CO2 and the industrial process of transforming aluminium into a final product (e.g. screwcap) gives rise to further CO2 emissions. Further high energy consumption is also required if the plastics and aluminium end products are eventually recycled. Cork on the other hand is a renewable and non-polluting resource produced every 9 years without damaging the cork tree. It is 100% recyclable and requires very low energy consumption since a significant part of the energy needs for production is satisfied using biomass. For further information see the Corticeira Amorim Sustainability Report on www.corkfacts.com

Cork for Elephants

Cork is too useful a material to be used only once and discarded, and many wine corks are now collected for recycling into a range of other cork products. Recycling corks is a major fund-raising and environmental activity around the world. In Australia, the proceeds of a cork-recycling campaign by school students have contributed to the building of a new elephant enclosure at Melbourne Zoo.

For further information please visit: Cork for Elephants.

Environmental Impact

The environmental importance of the cork forests in Southern Spain, Portugal and many other Mediterranean countries is well recognised by the European Union. Without cork trees many areas in those countries could become desert similar to North Africa. For this reason, the E.U. is actively encouraging with monetary grants the planting of new cork trees because they are a renewable resource; they prevent soil erosion; they support other types of vegetation; and they provide a habitat for raising animals like sheep, pigs and goats.

Cork Industry Federation has an educational website for Primary school teachers in the UK

Announcing a new on-line education resource for primary school teachers and children learning about sustainable development: www.planetcork.org "Come and join me on Facebook" says Corkie.

With real birdsong, colour posters of trees, birds and animals to download and mono versions for colouring too, the new Planetcork.org website has lots of useful information for teaching sustainability linked to one of nature's most beneficial trees. This website explains the unique features of the cork oak tree: its history, the geography of where the cork oak trees grow, and pictures of the flora and fauna that inhabit the cork forests around the Western Mediterranean Sea. PlanetCork.org explains the importance of trees generally in absorbing carbon dioxide and providing us with a valuable source of oxygen. It also explains why Cork trees are unique, are never cut down and provide us with a truly sustainable and renewable resource that is recyclable and biodegradable and has been used for millennia because of its special properties.

The unique properties of cork stimulate children to think about its physical properties such as lightweight and buoyancy, compression and expansion and thermal absorption which is why this material has so many applications even today in buildings, car engines, spacecraft and of course cricket balls, badminton shuttlecocks and it can even be used to make fashion items such as handbags or I-phone cases. All is explained on the website and there are video films showing the cork harvest which can be viewed on Corkie's Facebook and YouTube page too.

To stimulate children further, the Cork Federation is encouraging teachers to send in pictures of items made from used corks and is offering as teaching aids a sample of cork bark as it comes from the tree showing how bottle stoppers are produced. Just send in your request with the postal address to: info@cork-products.co.uk

Climate Change

Amorim's innovative climate change video "Save Miguel" won two prestigious awards at Oenovideo 2009 - the international Grape and Wine Festival.

The Save Miguel production a light-hearted film with a serious message about climate change and the social, environmental and economic benefits of using cork products won "Best original screenplay" and also collected the "People's Choice Award" presented by the festival's host city, Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy, France. Almost 100 films from 12 countries were entered in the 2009 competition. Of these only 12 received awards which will be officially presented on 9 September at the French Senate building, Palais de Luxembourg, Paris.

Launched by the leading cork producer Amorim in August 2008, the Save Miguel campaign was viewed more than 450,000 times in just three months.

To view the Save Miguel video or for more information on the campaign please visit the website: www.savemiguel.com

WWF Urges Portugal to Expand Cork Forests

LISBON - The WWF environmental group urged Portugal on Tuesday to expand its cork forests to act as a barrier against accelerating desertification of its south due to global warming.

Portugal is the world's largest producer of cork used in wine bottles but the density of trees in cork forests has fallen in recent years, threatening increased desertification as the dry, hot climate of the south moves north.

Because cork trees are not cut down and water is retained in the forests because of falling leaves, they are uniquely environmentally sustainable, WWF said in a study. The bark of individual trees is cut for cork only every nine years.

The group said in a study carried out together with the country's Higher Institute of Agronomy that a 20 percent expansion of the current area of cork trees could stop desertification at its current limits by 2020.

Failure to expand cork forests and tree density could raise desertification levels to more than one kilometre per year.

"Cork trees have every potential to act as a barrier to desertification," said Angela Morgado, communications and fundraising officer at the WWF in Portugal.

Due to cork trees' ability to grow in relatively dry climates and if average temperatures continue rising due to global warming, the WWF recommended that cork be planted further north in Portugal to reduce the threat of desertification.

Cork currently represents 2.7 percent of Portugal's exports and the cork industry employs up to 14,000 people.

(Reporting by Axel Bugge) *Story Date:* 18/6/2008 All Contents (c) Reuters News Service 2008

our members

The Cork Industry Federation is an association of companies involved in the importation, manufacture and distribution of cork products in the UK and for export.
The Federation seeks to uphold quality standards within the industry and to promote the use of cork in its many different applications