If you are a fan of American sitcoms, you have realized that the majority of the women characters are portrayed drinking wine as often as possible. It is no coincidence, and most show’s storylines can explain why the woman is drinking the wine. However, the general assumption is that since wine is a distinctive sign and social marker, it describes a comfortably well-off urban class as well as the features of an active woman.
Wine comes in classy glass bottles, of all shapes and sizes. The one common thing in all wine drinks is the corks. They are typically made from cork or bark of the cork oak to act as a stopper and seal the wine bottles. These corks are pretty much worthless after the wine is all drunk up, and this article seeks to understand if wine corks can instead be composted.
Can You Compost Wine Corks?
Yes, wine corks are compostable. Along with recycling them, you can also compost the wine corks. The corks are made from the cork oak, a tree that grows up to 65 feet tall, yet the tree does not need to be cut down to harvest the cork.
Cork oak regrows its outer bark and about once a decade, the bark can be stripped off an adult tree without causing any harm. On average, a single cork tree can see its bark safely harvested 16 times in its lifetime.
Cork is light and possesses elastic qualities, allowing it to serve as a stopper in many bottled products like wine. It is also impermeable so gases and liquids cannot pass through it, keeping whatever is sealed in a corked bottle fresh and unspoiled.
Since corks come from a tree, a naturally occurring plant, they can be composted without too many issues. However, you need to be careful about two or three things before composting it.
First, ensure the cork is not plastic that has been painted to look similar to the cork. These synthetic materials are made to look like cork wood and should not be composted. Simply cut the cork open to check.
Synthetic corks are foamy and look very uniform inside, and should never be composted. Synthetic corks are increasingly common in newer wines for several reasons, but they do not rot down in a compost heap.
Secondly, be sure to remove anything artificially attached to the cork. It could include foil covers, plastic, or screw lid material. These additional materials ought to be reused or recycled but should not be composted.
To compost wine corks much more quickly, chop the cork up to help it break down. As in any compost material, the more green elements, like grass, plant clippings, or leftover vegetable scrap added into the compost, the quicker non-green materials will break down.
Since cork is a brown material, make sure you add enough fresh green items like vegetable scraps or grass clippings, to help speed up the composting process. You can even do this with other cork materials, such as a notice board. Just make sure that they do not have glue or paint on them.
You can also cut these parts out and still recycle the parts without paint or glue. The paint and glue not only hinder the proper composting process but also potentially adds a lot of unwanted chemicals to the compost.
Are Wine Corks Biodegradable?
Definitely. Cork is a 100% natural biodegradable and renewable resource. Cork trees are an environmentally sustainable resource and layers of the tree bark are stripped off, without harming the tree and turned into various products, most often wine corks.
Not a single tree, each of which can live up to 300 years, is cut down during cork extraction. Instead, the bark is harvested by hand every nine to 12 years, explaining why a single cork tree can see its bark safely harvested 16 times in its lifetime. Cork biodegrades completely and can be easily recycled without producing any toxic residues.
However, be careful about synthetic corks, made and painted to resemble the natural cork or those with plastic screw caps as they are non-recyclable. Additionally, they can cause harm to your compost and potentially not fully biodegrade
Are Wine Corks Recyclable?
Certainly, wine corks are recyclable, primarily because they are durable and come from a naturally occurring plant, the cork tree. Some companies collect natural wine corks and then turn them into anything from shoes and bags to flooring.
For the crafty of you out there, there are all kinds of projects you can make with used wine corks, including wreaths, trivets and corkboards. If you would like to simply display them, there are myriad options, from accent tables to decorative wall displays. Cork can also be used to make do-it-yourself (DIY) lampshades, bath mats, flip-flops and even recycled home appliances.
ReCork is the largest cork recycler in North America. They take natural corks and turn them into shoes, yoga blocks, and more. With the help of thousands of partners across North America, ReCork has collected and recycled over 110 million natural wine corks.
TerraCycle is another recycling company within the States, who accepts both natural and plastic versions of cork, turning them into products, and rewarding those who bring their corks for recycling.
Recycle Now is another company that provides the rules on how to safely recycle such materials. They suggest that you cut or grind up some corks to form a mulch to help you with your plants. Orchid growers particularly can slice the corks up and help the plant hold onto moisture, a tip that is helpful to those who are lazy at or forget to water their plants.
Can You Reuse Wine Corks?
Oh yes, wine corks are reusable. They are a durable material and can be reused to cap other wine bottles. Unfortunately, using a corkscrew can put a big hole in the cork. Luckily, the corks can be compressed and be put back in a bottle as they will expand to seal the bottle tightly.
Although reusing corks is a possibility, actually doing it might not make sense. First, they are very cheap and are available on many online and offline platforms. A quick search on Amazon.com and you will find about 100 corks going for about $20, meaning one average at about 20 cents.
Secondly, not all wine corks will fit different bottles. This means you might reuse a cork and it leaks the wine or lets air inside, spoiling the wine. Thirdly, corks are challenged already as they are a plug of natural tree bark, full of microbes that are impossible to sterilize away and nooks and crannies within which said microbes like to hide.
Corks can also carry molds that, when in contact with chlorine molecules, can create the nasty, swampy “corked” aroma 2,4,6-trichloroanisole. Therefore, although they are reusable, just avoid doing it.
Can You Burn Wine Corks?
Surprisingly, you can burn wine corks without too many issues. Cork is a slow combustion material, meaning it burns but very slowly. It also does not produce flame, meaning it will not spread, and when burning, the smoke released is not toxic. You can also choose to soak the natural corks in a jar filled with rubbing alcohol for about a week.
Once they are lit, they will burn for a couple of days. This means when you go out camping with your family and friends, and decide to take up some wine, you can safely throw the corks inside the fire and they will not result in harmful gases.
The fire will burn slowly as the corks are dense and will take you for the entire night or for as long as you will be up. However, do not do this if you have synthetic corks or those with glues or other materials. This is because they will burn and release potentially toxic gases, that might choke you or contribute to environmental pollution.
7 Fantastic Ways to Reuse Old Wine Corks
1. Making mini stamps
You can use wine corks to make adorable stamps. The kids can also use the markers on the one side for coloring. It is a fun do-it-yourself project that you can undertake with the young ones for a class project or for decorative works that can be hung on the wall.
2. Making coasters for your wine glasses
How about using part of the wine when taking the wine itself? You can make wine cork coasters to sit your wine glasses on. It is an artistic and functional design that will also wow your guests at your next party and have them marvel at your creativity. Just grab a couple of wine corks, cut them nicely into the same size, and glue them together.
3. Making keychains
Yes, you can make lovely keychains from wine corks. In fact, they are excellent for taking to the pool because in case you drop your keys in the water, the cork will help them float. All you need is to add an eyehook on the corks and you have your keychain.
4. Making vases for your flowers
You can also make a wine cork vase. Wine corks are practical and versatile and can be glued up to make a vase where you will be storing your flowers. They surely will remind you of those good times you had surrounded by family and friends.
5. Making a bulletin board
Picture a wine cork bulletin board inside your house. This is exactly what moms need for their to-do lists, and reminds the kids of the chores they are yet to undertake. The beauty of this gift is that you can customize it by painting the corks your favorite color, so it does not have to be one plain color. Look for your favorite colors, blend them and make a bulletin board that really stands out as a great decoration in your home.
6. Making a bath mat
Yes, a wine cork can be used to make a bath mat that feels awesome beneath your feet. If you have tens or hundreds of wine corks saved, try your hand at this wine cork bath mat.
You will be giving your bathroom a well-deserved upgrade with these excellent choices for when you step out of the shower. You only need over a hundred corks, shelf liner and hot glue.
7. Making kitchen utensil holders
Unbelievably, you can make a kitchen utensil holder from several wine corks. It is a quick and easy project that requires you to stack some wine corks on top of each other, forming a circle that your larger utensils can then fit inside on display.
You can then place the holder anywhere in your kitchen or can choose to use it to hold other items such as pens in the study room or make a bowl-like holder that can hold your house keys, makeup and even earrings.