Whole Foods expands use of Oregon-based recycling program
Cork is hand harvested every nine years.
Whole Foods Markets announced Tuesday that it will expand an Oregon wine cork-recycling pilot program to all of its 292 locations in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Whole Foods is working with the Salem-based nonprofit Cork ReHarvest to collect wine corks and recycle them. Cork ReHarvest spun out of Willamette Valley Vineyards in 2008.
Starting this month, Whole Foods stores will collect corks from customers for the program. Cork ReHarvest has established partnerships with recyclers across the country to take the cork and reuse it.
West Coast corks will be sent to Western Pulp in Corvallis where they will be used in recyclable wine-shipping containers. In the Midwest, the corks go to Yemm & Hart, maker of cork floor tiles. East Coast and UK corks will go to Jelinek Cork Group to be used in a variety of products.
Why recycle cork? Patrick Spencer, Cork ReHarvest’s director and sole employee said there are many misconceptions about cork.
“Thirteen billion wine corks are produced each year,” Spencer said. “Eight billion of those come to the U.S. and 99 percent of them end up in landfills.”
Alternative closures don’t make a good showing either. Screw tops aren’t recyclable in the United States while fake corks are made with petroleum products, Spencer said. Cork is harvested through an environmentally friendly process every nine years.
“There are a number of different opportunities with recycled cork,” Spencer said. “This is an industry that’s in its infancy.”
Cork ReHarvest is getting a boost from Whole Foods Markets which tested the program last year in Portland and Seattle stores.
“We received an incredibly positive response. We’re doing about 100 to 120 pounds per week,” said Erez Klein, wine buyer for the Whole Foods Pacific Northwest stores. “That’s pretty impressive given how light cork is and how long it takes for people to initiate new habits.”
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