Photo by Dgies (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

According to an October 5th article in the London Times, bottle caps aren’t all that recyclable. Admittedly, I’ve never really known what to do with bottle caps, metal jar lids, and other little bits and bobs that perhaps don’t strictly fit into one of the paper/plastic/glass/metal categories. Where I live in the U.K. all the recycling just goes into one common bin anyway, to be later sorted out at recycling stations or plants. It was the same when I lived in Ireland.

Bottle caps are mostly aluminum – or aluminium if you’re not a Yank – a highly valuable and recyclable metal. However, the insides of the caps have a plastic/paper sealant that makes recycling impractical, which means they usually end up in landfills no matter where you toss them. Since many wine bottles now have twist caps instead of the traditional corks that worked well for hundreds of years, the cork industry is fighting back – and they have environmentalism on their side.

A BBC report from September, 2008 explains how the cork industry, mostly based in Portugal, works. Cork oak trees are not cut down, but rather stripped of their bark every nine years. The trees generally live for 200 years, making cork a very sustainable resource, which many growers depend on for their livelihood. Though cork has other uses – I myself have a very nice cork wallet – the drinks industry provides for 90% of their market.

But there are other environmental advantages for Cork over metal bottle caps or plastic stoppers. Cork is also completely biodegradable and can be recycled and used for packaging, flooring and insulation. On top of all this, cork oak forests are home to diverse ecosystems, including most of the Iberian lynx’s habitat, many wildflowers and increasingly precious honey bees.


Portuguese cork bark photo by Chmee2 (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

The WWF and other environmental groups join the cork producers in their convictions:

‘They claim that independent observers have found that CO2 emissions during the production cycle of a screw top are 24 times higher than those emitted when producing a cork stopper, while plastic stoppers create ten times more CO2.’




It’s also not very romantic to break out a bottle of champagne and then lamely twist the top off. So go on, pop your cork. You know you want to.


Additional resources:
Cork facts – Natural Cork Production
Cork wiki

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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