25 Things to Do With Used Corks (Including Making Money With Them)
Do you like to enjoy the odd (or not so odd) bottle of wine? If so, then what do you do with the cork? Sure, you can toss it in the recycling bin along with the bottle, but what if they could be reused ingeniously? Following are a few ways you can recycle your corks so they can be put to good use. (See also: Disposable Items You Can Reuse)
History of the Cork Tree
Yes, there really is such a thing as a cork tree. Known as the Cork Oak Tree, the bark is used for the production of corks. When properly harvested, taking the bark does not kill the tree (it regenerates in several years), which makes cork a renewable sustainable resource. The bark is harvested without machinery, and in Portugal (where over half the world's cork oak trees reside), the cork oak tree is prohibited from being cut down.
Cork advocates will tout other environmental benefits of cork, including new technologies for the use — and reuse — of cork.
What are corks recycled into?
Used corks can be recycled and transformed into a variety of objects including:
- Flooring tiles
- Building insulation
- Automotive gaskets
- Craft materials
- Soil conditioner
- Sports equipment
Where can I take my corks for recycling?
Yemm & Hart Ltd is one of the better known cork recyclers, accepting donations of cork by mail to make adhesive cork tiles for flooring or other household applications. And, if you can collect and send at least 10 pounds of pure cork, they'll even pay you for it! What a great way to make a few extra dollars…the Wise Bread way. (See also: Websites That Pay You for Recycling)
Korks 4 Kids is another program that recycles corks into flooring and construction materials. All of their profits go to charity, and as a charity themselves, your cost of shipping the corks is tax deductible.
Terracycle, a company that recycles any number of items including yoghurt cups and energy bar wrappers, also has a cork program. If you collect 200 or more corks, they'll pay for your shipping costs too. This is a great company to become involved with, because in some cases depending on what you are collecting, they'll make a donation on your behalf (example: 2 cents per item) to a non-profit organization of your choice.
And for other places around the country to drop off your corks for recycling, check out ReCork America for a list.
How can I reuse corks myself at home?
The number of ways you can reuse corks at home is limited only by your imagination. Here are some suggestions:
In the Kitchen
Pour Spouts. If you have a bottle of oil or vinegar that pours overzealously, then slice a small wedge lengthwise out of a cork and jam it in the bottle neck. Now you can control your pouring! (See also: Kitchen Cast-Offs you Can Repurpose)
Cleaning Knives. High-carbon knives clean up best with a dash of cleanser and a cork instead of an abrasive cleaning pad.
Knife Holder. Glue a number of corks together, side by side. Make slits in the top, and put your cork creation into your knife drawer. Store the knives blade-down in the cork slits and they will stay sharp much longer.
Mulling Spice Bags. This is a great gift with a homey touch. The cork tops it off nicely.
Around the House
Baseboard. This is ingenious, inexpensive, and interesting to look at. It's a touch labor-intensive though, and depending on the size of your room, you'll need to drink a lot of wine (or at least have a lot of friends who drink wine) to get this project off the ground.
Floor Savers. Slice the cork into small disks and attach to the bottom of furniture, chairs, and other items that could scratch the floor. (This technique is also good on cupboard doors to prevent them from slamming).
Pin Holder. An extra cork strategically placed near your bulletin board can be a refuge for wayward pins and tacks.
Cork (bead) Curtain. String corks together end to end (and many times over) to create your own bead curtain to be hung in a doorway.
Cat toy. Drill a hole into a champagne cork and stuff it with catnip. Attach a string to the cork and taunt your cat with it!
Business Card / Place Card Holder. This has an elegant touch at dinner parties and is an ingenious way to present a business card in an office setting.
Razor Blade Holder. If you find yourself fiddling with a razor blade for a home repair project, try making a slice into the top or side of a cork and jamming the razor blade into it. Now you have something to hold on to while you are using the blade.
Corkboard. This is a common way of reusing corks, and it looks good too.
Cork Trivet. Another common and practical way to reuse those corks.
…with a few words of wisdom for constructing the proper-sized frames for both the above items.
Fishing Bobber. Insert a piece of dowling to secure your fishing line (bobber style), then get to it. Your cork will tell you if the fishies are close.
Garden Mulch. Grind your corks up in a food processor and add to your garden bed. The cork will retain moisture and mulch your garden effectively. (See also: What a Vegetable Garden Needs)
Stamps. This is a great one to do with the kids: carve stars, moons, letters, and other shapes into your cork top. Dab with ink, and have fun.
Christmas Decorations. With a needle and fishing line, you can string a bunch together end to end, separated perhaps by dried cranberries or other colorful additions.
Wine Cork Man. This little guy is pretty cute.
Wine Cork Angel. Great for the holiday season.
Cork Trolls. Make a whole family of these critters!
Cork wreath. I initially thought this would be tacky, but was pleasantly surprised.
Cork heart decoration. Ditto here! This is a popular design and easy to make too.
For more information on corks, the cork industry, and cork recycling, check out ReCork America.