Cork is the outer bark of the cork oak, Quercus suber L. It is one of the most versatile natural materials known because it brings together a set of rare properties such as the ability to regenerate cork year after year. Cork oak forests occupy 2.2 million hectares worldwide and are virtually endemic to the Mediterranean. Cork from around 90% of these hectares is distributed in Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Algeria. It can be extracted every 9-14 years depending on the region. The annual production of cork is approximately 201 thousand tons. Its physical and mechanical properties are mainly due to its structural characteristics at the cellular level and the composition of its cell wall (suberin 40-50%, lignin, polysaccharides).
The sustainable forest management of cork oak forests helps to combat the climate emergency due to its capacity to sink CO2 and, at the same time, contributes to the settlement of the population in rural areas, to the reduction of the risk of fire in cork forests and the creation of jobs in economically depressed areas.
The GO Suber Operative Group (Modernization of the peel to improve productivity) brings together different agents related to the cork extraction sector, forest owners and research centers with the aim of carrying out an Innovation Project. The main objective of the project is to modernize the task ofcork extraction (traditionally done with an axe) through the cam mechanization, the optimization of peeling procedures and the improvement of health and safety conditions through various initiatives such as new measures adapted to peeling tasks and the prototype of a cork ladder. In addition, it seeks to valorize cork and its derivatives to improve their commercialization, through new technological applications and new uses ("green facades"). To increase productivity in the cork sector, it is essential to increase the economic performance of all the cork extracted from the forest in a sustainable way.
As part of this project the Institut Català del Suro Foundation has coordinated the preparation of the Miniguide for New Applications of Cork. The guide contains a brief overview of the material, the sector and production, but focuses on its applications. It presents examples of applications of the cork material in its many forms and aims to be a reference to diversify its activity. It wants to be a guide for all those innovative and entrepreneurial people or organizations who want to deepen the bioeconomy through the cork sector. You can consult the guide here.