Origins of Cork

CORK IS A MATERIAL WITH HISTORY THAT IS INCREASINGLY BEING USED.
NATURAL, ORGANIC, RENEWABLE, BIODEGRADABLE AND 100% RECYCLABLE.

WHAT IS CORK?

Cork is the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber). Every year a new periderm grows –formed by rings that grow from inside the cork oak tree outwards – over the older ones, thus forming this bark. The main component of cork is suberin.

WHERE ARE CORK OAK TREES FOUND

The Mediterranean cork oak is a medium-sized perennial tree, native to Europe and the north of Africa.

HOW LONG HAS CORK BEEN USED?

The first references date from 3000 BC in China, where it was used in fishing equipment. But its unique properties were also known to the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians and Persians. During the classic Greek-Latin era, it was frequently used for the construction of several kinds of buoys, hives and the soles of women’s shoes.

WHERE IS CORK PRODUCED?

Worldwide production of cork is around 340,000 tonnes, of which Portugal produces 61%, Spain 30%, and Italy 6%. The Spanish cork sector is mainly in three autonomous communities: Andalusia, Extremadura and Catalonia. There are approximately 150 companies employing around 2,000 workers.

HOW IS CORK PRODUCED?

Cork is extracted by removing the bark of the cork oak tree, where this material is found. Once the bark is extracted, the tree “rests”, and after a few years have passed the bark is once again removed; this is mainly done for two reasons: because the quality of the bark the following year is not the same compared to that removed for the “first” time. And secondly, to prevent a possible depletion of the tree’s production.

IS IT ECOLOGICAL TO CONSUME CORK?

The cork industry promotes a non-contaminating economic activity that provides a natural, ecological, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable product to the world market. CORK is a guarantee for the future and survival of the cork oak forests and an example of sustainable economy. The production of cork does not produce any pollution or harm the ecosystem from which it is extracted, as it is obtained through debarking, without cutting down any trees. After extracting the cork, within a few hours, the natural cycle of the cork oak tree begins to regenerate its bark, the cork. The ecological value of the cork has been recognised by highly prestigious international organisations, such as the World Wildlife Fund WWF/Adena (www.wwf.es).

WHAT IS ITS ROLE IN THE ECOSYSTEM?

Cork oak forests are home to some of the most emblematic Mediterranean animal species, such as the Imperial eagle, black stork or the Iberian lynx. Conservation of cork oak forests reduces the risk of fires as cork oak trees are highly fire resistant thanks to the protection provided by the layer of cork that envelopes them and their rapid ability to regenerate. It slows down desertification, thanks to the ability of cork oak trees to retain soil in their roots while their treetops reduce the intensity of rainfall, reducing water run-off and preventing erosion of the soil. Their correct management provides protection against climate change. Due to the long life of the material, the CO2 remains deposited in the cork products for a long time.

WHAT ARE THE PROPERTIES OF CORK?

Cork is a product in which Mother Nature has embodied all her great wisdom after centuries of evolution. It has characteristics that are unrivalled by any synthetic product. Lightness: the density of cork is between 0.12 and 0.25. The lower it is, the greater the quality of the cork. Waterproof: cork is almost completely waterproof thanks to the suberin and wax it contains, although it is not entirely impermeable as it allows gas to slowly pass through due to the gas content of its cells. Adherence: it has a high friction coefficient attributed to the fact that cork in contact with a smooth surface has a large number of suckers created by the cell cavities (pores) found on the cut surface of the cork. Compressibility and elasticity: cork is the only solid body that has the property of being compressed without lateral expansion. It also recovers up to 85% of its initial volume within 24 hours of having been subjected to pressure; this means it is also highly resistant to wear and tear.

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