June 6th, 2011
Fast Company wrote a really concise piece on the importance of recycling this week. The article wasn't the usual rhetorical spin on recycling (recycling is good, green is good, blah, blah, blah). Instead, the article is a nice feature on recycling metals and furthering the clean tech industry.
In short, no one really knows what the ultimate supply of metals really is - especially rare metals. In theory, some day the metal supply could run dry so the ability to continually recycle metals is critical. As such, it's absolutely imperative that we master metal recycling now in order to enable developing technologies and designs in metal production. It's an interesting and somewhat alarming problem in the metal industry and I certainly hope they come up with some innovative solutions right away.
In the context of recycling, natural cork is different than metal in that we can gauge to some degree how much of a cork supply there is worldwide. Money and metal might not grow on trees but cork does. Literally. If you were to simply count all the trees, you could determine how much cork is available... But knowing the exact supply level of cork isn't really the issue in this case. The issue is improving best practices in cork recycling and product innovation. And unlike metal, the beauty of recycling cork is that the more we recycle, the more supply and demand we create for natural cork on the market.
First, supply: Previously, the great majority of used natural corks simply went to waste. Now that we're recycling those corks, the inventory of natural cork is inherently greater. Also, you might know that ReCORK helps plant new cork oak trees in the Mediterranean forest. (Not only do we recycle natural corks, but a huge part of our initiative is to further the long-term sustainability of the cork forests.) We planted 5000 new trees in 2010. Those 5000 trees will provide a reliable supply of new and totally reusable natural cork for the next 150 years! Thus, we're helping create a new supply of natural cork.
Demand: We have a lot of ideas brewing for ways to implement used, natural corks in new consumer products. And one very interesting issue we've encountered in recent months is that people are increasingly interested (i.e., demand) in using recycled natural cork in their products. The reality is that people are excited about natural cork. It's so versatile; the potential applications are nearly endless! So we're talking about something beyond just a supply. That supply is leading to innovative ideas and great products - see the SOLE flip-flops! As these cool and innovative products continue to roll out, no doubt demand will increase. Yes, recycling natural cork leads to greater demand for natural cork.
At this point it's worth mentioning that cork recycling isn't exactly old hat. It's really a new-ish concept. People have been re-using cork in art projects and the like for a long time. But a large scale, industrial level cork recycling initiative has never existed before to our knowledge. Our objective has always been to make the best possible use of natural cork by using it to replace petroleum-based materials commonly used in consumer products. To the extent that we are able to ramp up supply and demand for natural cork and further promote its inherent virtues, all the better.
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