In a scenario where climate change predominates as a global megatrend, the adoption of good environmental practices and the reduction of CO2 emissions with a consequent reduction of the carbon footprint of the final product constitute relevant commitments in the wine and distribution sector. In order to respond to these challenges, in 2007 Corticeira Amorim promoted a study of the environmental impact analysis of three different types of closures for wine bottles – cork stoppers, plastic caps and aluminum closures.
The study was developed by PwC in accordance with the standards ISO 14040 (Life Cycle Assessment – Concepts and Applications) and ISO 14044 (Life Cycle Assessment – Concepts and Guidelines) and focused on 750ml wine bottles consumed in the United Kingdom. The analysis ascertained the performance of each of the closures in seven environmental indicators – non-renewable energy consumption, water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, contribution to atmospheric acidification, contribution to deterioration of the ozone layer, contribution to eutrophication and waste production.
When the sequestration of the ecosystem, enabled by the cyclical extraction of cork, is considered, as recommended by the OIV Resolution on the emission of greenhouse gases, it is concluded that each cork stopper is associated with the retention of 112 grams of CO2 per stopper, against to the CO2 emission attributed to the production of alternative closures.
Considering the worst scenario for the cork stoppers (that is a scenario in which cork stoppers are not associated with the sequestration by montado’s ecosystem), the relative performances of the different closures studied are summarized in the table below, where the differences are expressed in relation to the closure with the best performance in each indicator. The study concluded that cork stoppers are the best alternative comparing it with six of the seven indicators analyzed.
In relation to CO2 emissions associated with the production of a cork stopper, these are lower than CO2 emissions recorded by aluminum and plastic closures, which emit 10 and 24 times more CO2 respectively than the cork stopper.
The study demonstrates the strong positioning of Corticeira Amorim and the role of cork stoppers as the best option for wine producers, distributors and retailers in reducing carbon footprint and improving environmental performance.
As a raw material, the cork encompasses a large group of unmatched features. At the same time, it is fully biodegradable, renewable, recyclable, reusable and able to circulate continuously in the economy. Although recycled cork cannot be incorporated into cork stoppers anymore, it can be integrated into numerous products. Based on this principle, the Greencork project – the national program for the selective collection of stoppers for recycling – was launched in Portugal in partnership with the non-governmental organization Quercus and others.
The project aims to promote a new recycling practice, increase the CO2 retention period associated with cork stoppers, and raise public awareness of the environmental advantages of cork products as a support to the cork oak ecosystem. Greencork also allows the financing of a project that ensures the planting of Portuguese native trees, namely the cork oak, already contributing to the planting of thousands of trees in various parts of the country.
The promotion of cork recycling projects has also been also carried out at an international level for some time, through the following projects with the involvement of Corticeira Amorim:
2008: Projet ReCORK (Canada). This is North America’s largest cork stopper collection program, boosted by the involvement of the Canadian footwear company SOLE, which incorporates recycled cork in the production shoe’s soles;
2009: EcoBouchon Project (France). This program has already collected millions of cork stoppers which have contributed to donating funds to various causes such as cancer research and social support projects;
2011: ETICO Project (Italy). Project developed in collaboration with several associations, which manage more than 5,000 cork stopper’s collection points and receive a donation for their social support projects.
2013: Corklife Project (South Africa). It aims to obtain used or surplus cork stoppers to give them a new life, still creating employment.
These projects are notorious examples of promoting the principles of a circular economy by Corticeira Amorim, while reflecting its strong social impact. Since the beginning of the projects, more than 550 million cork stoppers have been collected for recycling and donated more than 1.5 M € for social causes and reforestation.