Cork (material)

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Cork is an impermeable, buoyant material, a prime-subset of generic cork tissue that is harvested for commercial use primarily from Quercus suber (the Cork Oak), which is endemic to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. Cork is composed of suberin, a hydrophobic substance, and because of its impermeability, buoyancy, elasticity, and fire resistance, it is used in a variety of products, the most common of which is for wine stoppers. Portugal produces approximately 50% of cork harvested annually worldwide, with Corticeira Amorim being the leading company in the industry.[1] Cork was examined microscopically by Robert Hooke, which led to his discovery and naming of the cell.[2]

Contents

Sources and harvesting

There are about 2,200,000 hectares of cork forest worldwide; 33.5% in Portugal, and 23% in Spain. Annual production is about 340,000 tons; 52% from Portugal, 32% from Spain, 6% Italy.

Once the trees are about 25 years old the cork is stripped from the trunks every nine years. The trees live for about 200 years. The first two harvests produce poorer quality cork.

The cork industry is generally regarded as environmentally friendly.[3] The sustainability of production and the easy recycling of cork products and by-products are two of its most distinctive aspects. Cork Oak forests also prevent desertification and are the home of various endangered species.[4]

Carbon footprint studies committed by Corticeira Amorim, Oeneo Bouchage of France and the Cork Supply Group of Portugal concluded that cork is the most environmentally friendly wine stopper. The Corticeira Amorim’s study, in particular ("Analysis of the life cycle of Cork, Aluminum and Plastic Wine Closures"), was developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, according to ISO 14040.[5]

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