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Put a cork in it


In this cardboard box, I mean.

Hundreds of cork-recycling bins like this one were set out recently at Whole Foods Markets across the country, the product of a partnership with a nonprofit organization called Cork ReHarvest. The goal is to collect and recycle wine bottle corks that otherwise would be dumped into landfills.

You might wonder whether cork waste is really such a big deal. It's true that a growing number of wine bottles these days come sealed with plastic corks or metal screw caps. But even though the cork industry has lost a big proportion of its business, it still produces about 3 billion corks every year, according to the Cork ReHarvest folks. That's a lot of corks to end up buried in the ground.

I first saw similar bins a few months ago at wine stores in Charlottesville, where there's an active local group called Re-cork C'Ville. Back home in the Washington area, I looked for a similar effort around here but turned up nothing. Then a few weeks ago, Whole Foods announced its new program. Just take your corks to the store and drop them in the bin, and they're off to a whole new life.

According to the store, corks collected in different areas of the country will meet different fates. Out West, they'll morph into recyclable wine shippers. In the Midwest, they'll become floor tiles. In the East, they'll be turned into what the store calls "post-consumer products."

Whole Foods takes pains to explain that this effort doesn't put any extra trucks on the road. "Corks make their entire journey from our stores to recycling centers on trucks already in-route to each destination with virtually zero increase in carbon footprint," reads a post on the store's blog. "Corks are sent to our distribution centers on trucks already headed that way, then picked up by FedEx trucks (another Cork ReHarvest partner) that are passing by our distribution centers en route to their destinations, which include a stop at cork recycling partners."

So all in all, it seems like a positive program. But now that Whole Foods has let us know about it, the chain really has to get the information down to its stores. I called several Whole Foods locations in our area, and at all but one, the person who answered the phone had never heard anything about cork collection.

If you'd rather get something in return for your corks (other than the satisfaction of being virtuous), consider the Booze Bait Lure Co. of Chapel Hill, N.C. Seriously. The company turns used corks and used beer bottle caps into fishing lures, and it promises to give you one lure free for every 75 corks and/or caps you send in. The product slogan: "Reduce. Recycle. Reel one in!"

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  May 20, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
 
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Comments

Great idea! Does that include faux (rubber) corks?

Posted by: zaatarweeblycom | May 26, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

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