25 Things to Do With Used Corks (Including Making Money With Them)

By Nora Dunn on 7 July 2009 (Updated 23 December 2013) 26 comments

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.

Outside

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)

Crafts

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.

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Guest's picture
Deb

Please wash your corks before reusing them. I was saving a bunch only to find them infested with ants. Apparently the ants were crazy for that vintage.

Guest's picture
Joyce

I keep a stack of them on my kitchen table to throw whenever the chipmunk who lives in my backyard decides he'd rather be an indoors rodent and launches an invasion through the gap in the bottom of my screen door.

Guest's picture
Carrie In Indy

www dot corkbo dot com

Eric Wallentine is awesome and handcrafts crossbows that shoots your wine corks!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the great ideas and the hat tip!

Guest's picture
Gwen

Can synthetic corks be reused and recycled in the same manner as real cork?

Guest's picture
Chris

Hi Gwen.

The short answer is: It depends on the use.

The long answer is: Both can be used for stamps, place-holders, storage for open-
blade knives (ex-acto, carving, etc.), some furniture, fishing lures and bobbers, and
almost any craft project: earrings, bracelets, "curtains",… use your imagination.

Synthetic corks are mostly plastic, so they make great cork boards but lousy
bathmats, trivets (they'll melt), and wreaths. They are dense and hard to carve or
push a needle through for ornaments. When sticking them on back splashes or to
each other, hot glue works well because it is melted plastic.

Naturals make good cork boards, lighter wreaths, and great trivets. Since they are
from tree bark, they hold water, so bathmats and back splashes will eventually develop
mold and/or mildew, and cork boards will become dry and brittle. Before you grind
them up for garden mulch, know that ants and termites will be attracted to the decaying
wood, and other critters may use them for insulation or gnawing to sharpen teeth.

Please be careful if you take an ex-acto or other knife to any wine cork. Being round
makes them hard to hold while slicing or carving. Synthetics are tough; naturals can
be brittle and may come apart in chunks. Craft magnets can be glued to either cork.
Trivets (from naturals) can be stood on end to show the wine stain, or laid side-by
side to show the vineyard logo. Have fun laying out patterns (houndstooth;
checkerboard) or shapes (states, animals, fruit, etc.).

If you have too many naturals, send them to a charity or recycling company. Local
grade schools may take them for craft projects. If you have too many synthetics, send
them to me, and I'll send you my naturals. Let me know if you are interested.

Chris

Nora Dunn's picture

Thank you for the comments, everybody! I adore the crossbow suggestion.

@Gwen - None of the recycling companies will accept synthetic corks, however there's nothing precluding you from adopting any of the home projects with synthetic corks...go for it!

Guest's picture
Valerie R.

Terracycle's site says:

"TerraCycle upcycles used corks - both natural and synthetic - into cool products are available nationally at major retailers."

So it looks like they accept synthetic ones.

Thanks for all the great ideas. I save corks, with no real future use in mind. A friend though once gave me a cork trivet and its wonderful. I use it just about every day.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Right up my alley! I also use them to replace broken handles on small kitchen appliances. Just did it up as a tip the other day for another project I'm working on. Thanks for taking recycling to the next level, girl!

 

 

Check out my various projects and services at Itinerant Tightwad. I also have a monthly education newsletter.

Guest's picture
megan

Well I've been trying to think up something cool and practical arty to make with my growing collection of wine corks. Someone made a boot pad to place dirty boots on top of themas they're easy to hose or wash. Thanks for more ideas here.

Guest's picture
martha in mobile

We give our corks to our parrot to gnaw on. She doesn't eat them, just crumbles them and laughs maniacally. Parrots need lots of interesting items to destroy with their beaks -- untreated wood, the bottoms of heads of garlic, toilet paper rolls, and CORKS.

Guest's picture
breilly

I can vouch for this company, I've toured their building which is in the lovely city of Trenton NJ (I jest). Anyway their products are extremely effective and also recycle a lot of trash ! Fantastic business.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@breilly - Thanks for the endorsement! Isn't the power of our online community great? We can help each other suss out the best deals, and make sure they're legit no less!

Guest's picture
Guest

Use corks under potted plants to help keep the roots from swimming in water. I have also seen massive numbers of corks in a VERY LARGE glass vase (several feet tall), as a decoration at a nice restaurant.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Guest - Ooh: Great recommendations! Cheers.

Guest's picture
Guest

I love corks! I just bought a HUGE bag of them at a garage sale o.O

Guest's picture
Gail

We have a 3ft and a 4ft tall c probably 6in circular glass containers next to our portable bar/storage cupboard.
We toss all our wine bottle corks into them. We practice tossing the corks into the container much like a mini basketball hoop. Fun for adults and kids alike and makes a great conversation piece. We now see many wine bars doing this with huge glass circular containers.

Guest's picture
Julie

been searching for ideas for filling my tall apothecary jars and what to do with all my wine corks. you gave me the inspiration to fill them with corks.....silly, I don't know why i didn't think of this sooner :)

Guest's picture
klaird

I've seen some really cute wine cork jewelry on Etsy too! Another idea for your wine corks! I've also seen some great art pieces designed from wine corks, even a 6 foot tall vase made completely of wine corks.

Guest's picture
Guest

Here is a cork tip I haven't seen. Drill deep holes in a tree stump about the size of your cork, fill the hole with salt, cork it up. In a year or two your stump will rot. Why pay for stump removal when a little effort and time will take care of it.

Guest's picture

Or, if you are Sammy Sosa, stick 'em in a baseball bat!

Guest's picture
Guest

If you have pot lids that tend to get hot, slide two or three tightly into the lid, that way, when you need to remove it, you just grab the corks, not the metal handle

Guest's picture
Mickey

I use them at the back of my utensil caddies that may not fit as tightly as I would like them in drawers. When opening and closing drawers now, there is no shifting and the drawer closes with a nice sound feeling.

Guest's picture
Guest

I took a string eyeglasses cord drilled a hole in a couple of corks then threaded onto the cord and now I can go in the water and not worry about losing my glasses, they float.

Guest's picture
Mindy Edwards

Fill a framed cabinet door w/corks (side by side). Use as a bulletin board. My sister used this idea in her newly remodeled kitchen. The door also covered an ugly fuse cabinet. Looked great!

Guest's picture

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