Recycling Wine Corks

I remember being told a few years ago that there was a worldwide shortage of cork, which is "carved from the bark of a type of oak tree found mostly in Portugal and the Mediterranean." Whether there is actually a shortage or not doesn't concern me so much as the fact that it seems unconscionable to throw away a good piece of cork after opening a bottle of wine or champagne. For a time I saved corks, thinking that I might someday find someone who had a use for them, or think of one myself.

Now I can recycle my wine corks.

Roger Archey in Larkspur, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, "is heading a new effort to recycle wine corks - and he's already collected over 300,000 of them."
Archey is running ReCork America, a recycling program created by Amorim, a Portuguese company that manufactures a quarter of the world's 13 billion wine corks. With help from volunteers, including some local schools, he's gotten recycling commitments from a host of local restaurants and wineries, and set up several cork drop-off sites including the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.
Currently ReCork America has six drop-off cork collection locations: three in San Francisco, two in Napa and one in Turner, Oregon.

While American don't drink nearly as much wine per capita as do the French or Germans, we still drink about 15 bottles per capita per year, or hundreds of millions of bottles as a nation. And some analysts predict that "the US could overtake France as the leading per capita" wine consumer. That means a rising tide of cork flowing into our landfills, unless programs like ReCork America can put a cork in it.

UPDATE (2/11/13): In April 2010, Whole Foods Market implemented a company-wide wine cork recycling program throughout its 292 store locations in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can also recycle your wine corks at participating locations of the Sports Basement.
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