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The cork sector is consolidating itself as an example of a circular economy

The CORK initiative, grouping of associations and institutions in the cork sector in Spain, presents the turning point that the cork industry represents in the fight against climate change. The continuous cycle established between the cork forest and the cork industry, taking advantage of all the by-products generated from the manufacture and recycling of cork stoppers, sustains the transition towards a change of business paradigm aimed at achieving more production and consumption systems efficient defined as a Circular Economy model.

The continuous cycle established between cork forest and cork industry sustains the transition towards a change of business paradigm aimed at achieving more efficient production and consumption systems

The Circular Economy is shown as an alternative to the traditional linear model of production and consumption, with the added value of being able to solve a large part of the environmental challenges present today, channel new business opportunities and promote economic growth. Innovation stands as the fundamental element to achieve the transition towards a Circular Economy that mitigates the environmental impact and irreversible damage to the climate and biodiversity, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Among the industries that work following these environmental behavior guidelines, the cork sector has demonstrated sustainability in all its production processes and its firm commitment to R&D in recent years, positioning the cork as the choice indisputably sustainable for both winemakers and consumers.

The cork helps mitigate climate change

The cork is a natural, recyclable and renewable product, essential values to reduce pollution levels and preserve biodiversity. Several researches confirm that cork retains more CO2 than it emits (each cork emits 13.6 g and retains 247.7 g), so wineries that use corks to close their wines and sparkling wines reduce the CO2 balance of their bottles. Artificial caps, on the other hand, have a high environmental impact: the plastic cap emits around 130 g (10 times more CO2 than the cork cap), a figure that is multiplied by 24 in the case of the screw cap (approximately 330 g).

cork cork Catalan institute of cork

Cork is a renewable natural material. Its extraction does not cause any negative impact and does not require the felling of the tree, since the cork trees have the ability to regenerate the cork bark that has been removed from them and its extraction does not cause any pollution by being carried out by manual media. After 'the peel' the biological activity of the corks increases and therefore theirs CO2 capture is multiplied between 3 and 5 times. A cork forest has the capacity to fix 6 tons of CO2 per hectare per year, in this way, the cork forests of the Mediterranean they capture more than 14 million tons of CO2 every year.

Among the environmental benefits of cork forests they highlight the conservation of the vegetal subsoil, the retention of water, the protection of marshes, the control of erosion and, therefore, desertification and the prevention of fires as a result of their fireproof nature. In addition, its management involves the care of the forest, the reduction of fuel load and the maintenance of the roads.


Spain, at the forefront of cork production worldwide

cork circular economy

Spain, second world producer of cork behind Portugal, it has 506,000 hectares of cork oak that represent 25% of the world total. 88,400 tons of cork are extracted per year, which represents 30% of cork production worldwide. Catalonia, Andalusia and Extremadura are the main autonomous communities that concentrate more than 150 companies that generate around 2,000 jobs and that rise to 3,000 during the cork season (June-September).

The Spanish cork sector produces 3,000 million corks a year, of which 1,300 million are allocated to sparkling wines and 1,700 to wines. More than 50% of the turnover is a consequence of exports. The European markets are the main destination for Spanish exports (80%) with France, Portugal and Italy at the top, while the USA, Argentina and China are the main representatives of the 'New World' countries, accounting for 10% of exports.

The cycle of the cork industry is completed with the recycling of cork caps, an activity that involves a reduced energy cost. The corks collected are crushed and the granules obtained are used to manufacture cork products not intended for food, as materials for construction or the creation of objects for domestic and artistic use following the trend of eco-design . These cork recycling practices further affirm their contribution to the sustainability of the environment, endorsing the principles established by the Circular Economy.

"The Spanish cork sector is a key ally in the transition process towards a Circular Economy that produces multiple benefits and generates a more sustainable socio-economic development, detached from the indiscriminate use of non-renewable resources", says Albert Hereu, director of the Institut Català del Suro and spokesperson for the Cork Initiative. "The activity developed by the Cork Initiative, focused on disseminating and raising awareness of the importance of investing in a natural and national product such as the cork, is essential if we want to progress towards a sustainable and low-impact economic model environmental", adds Hereu.

Sustainability as a focus for the new stage of ICSuro

ICSuro is currently in the process of defining the strategic lines for the years 2020-2025, closely aligned with the Sustainable Development goals of the United Nations, specifically:

  • 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • 12: Responsible production and consumption
  • 15: Life of terrestrial ecosystems

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