Stick a Cork in It

Efforts under way to recycle natural wine closures

“We want your cork,” reads the nondescript box inside of Double Helix Wine Bar + Boutique at the Shoppes at the Palazzo. Double Helix wants your cork so badly, in fact, that a discount on wine is available to those who bring in corks: 10 corks gets you $2 off a drink, while 50 corks translates into 25 percent off any bottle in the store or bar. Not a bad deal for your fallen cork soldiers, which have a tendency to congregate in drawers or find their way to the trash.

Dropping your corks off at Double Helix can help to create a pair of flip-flops by Sole.

Thanks to that nondescript box and a company called ReCORK, those wine plugs are now being recycled.

ReCORK is a recycling program created by Amorim, a company in Portugal that is the world’s largest producer of natural cork. ReCORK’s U.S. offices are in Napa Valley, Calif., and in the two years since the company started here it has recycled nearly 9 million corks. To put that in perspective, more than 11 billion wine corks were sold last year.

“In the past, wine cork stoppers have ended up in the landfill and we feel like we can come up with some other uses for the material itself,” says Matt Hughes, partner relationship manager for ReCORK. “It’s a really dynamic, really versatile material and it can be used in a lot of consumer products, and there’s no reason for it to be thrown away.”

Some of those consumer products include flooring, building insulation, padding beneath playground equipment and packaging materials. And when corks go to ReCORK, they’re actually made into footwear.

ReCORK works with a company called Sole Footwear, which uses cork to add springiness to the sole of shoes, rather than petroleum byproducts, which many companies use.

“Sole actually grinds the cork stoppers down and then blends them into the footwear itself,” Hughes says.

In addition to Double Helix, ReCORK also works with other companies throughout the Valley, including Tao Group, Aria, Red Rock Resort and Parc Avenue Distributors.

Cork ReHarvest is another cork-recycling company with an active Las Vegas presence. The company works with Whole Foods, which has bins in which to deposit used corks. Cork ReHarvest also works with the majority of Harrah’s properties.

Patrick Spencer, director of Cork ReHarvest, says that the goal of the company is to have no increase in its carbon footprint, and that means working with domestic recyclers to keep the corks in the country and repurpose them here.

“Our mission is to save the 6.6 million acres of Mediterranean cork forests,” Spencer says. “By recycling the corks we are not only helping to remove billions of corks from our landfills, but it also helps educate the public about the importance of saving this environmentally important biosphere.”

In addition to recycling efforts, both ReCORK and Cork ReHarvest are advocates of natural cork and cork forests, which are found largely along the Mediterranean coast in southwest Europe and northwest Africa and boast some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.

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