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 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.
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
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: email@example.com