11 ways to reuse and recycle wine corks

Filed in Blog, Reuse by on January 3, 2011 42 Comments
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Cork - reuse or reycle instead of landfill

Cork - reuse or reycle instead of landfill

Happy New Year! Did you enjoy a few bottles of bubbly over the festive season?

If so, I hope you had real corks and didn’t fall prey to the pesky plastic corks!

Apparently there are 13 billion natural cork wine closures sold into the world market each year. At present, the majority of them end up in landfills which is a waste of a resource because cork is biodegradable, renewable, energy efficient, sustainable, and 100% natural.

If you’ve got a few corks lying around here are 11 ways to reuse or recycle them. Please add your ideas to the comments below!

Compost

You can chop corks up finely and add them to your compost heap – the perfect example of turning trash into treasure.

Reuse

Laithwaites, The UK’s largest mail order and online wine merchant has installed cork recycling bins in its 10 UK stores. The corks are either granulated and used on the company’s vineyard in Reading, or donated to local schools to make corkboards for charity. Find your local Laithwaites wine shop.

Clorks

Give your corks a new lease of life as a clock. Send your corks to Clorks where they’ll be created into works of art for time to come.

cork recycled into clocks

cork recycled into clocks

Place settings

Corks can make cute place card holders at your next dinner party. Cut the corks lengthways, but not all the way through and slot a card into the gap you’ve created. Alternatively glue 2 corks together, side by side, by placing a dab of glue near the bottom. This leaves a groove at the top to insert the place card.

recycled cork place settings

recycled cork place settings

Corkboard

The old favourite – the options available to you for making your own cork board are only limited by your imagination.

Recycled cork notice board

Recycled cork notice board

Ornaments

How’s this idea for recycled wrapping; imagine one of these wine cork ornaments adorning a gift for a wine lover.

upcycled cork ornament

upcycled cork ornament

Donate

Check local schools, artists or community projects to see if they want corks for any current projects. Apparently the Eden Centre once had huge figurines of animals and humans made entirely from cork!

Recycle

If you live in the US, send your used corks to Yemm and Hart who will upcycle them into snazzy wine cork tiles. Alternatively contact Recork who are working with companies to make old corks into footwear.

Chalkboard

Take inspiration from this beautiful chalk board and you’ll never mislay your shopping list again.

upcycled cork chalk board

upcycled cork chalk board

Christmas wreath

In time for next year, get saving and make yourself a simple cork Christmas wreath.

Recycled cork christmas wreath

Recycled cork christmas wreath

Sit down

Erm, make a chair out of them. Well I hope you haven’t been drining *that* much!

Something lovely to sit on while you enjoy a glass of wine

Something lovely to sit on while you enjoy a glass of wine

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (42)

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  1. Hazel says:

    I have to admit to using ours to start the wood stove. Not the best use probably, but better than buying fire lighters and binning the corks!

    I don’t think I’d ever have the patience to chop them small enough to compost them- I have lots sitting whole in the compost bin and garden where we’ve composted them without chopping. If I lived closer to a Laithwaites I’d certainly return them to for them to compost.

  2. Sooz says:

    I love the cork chair! If I ever collect enough corks I’m going to make a corkboard from them. I never knew you could compost corks, thanks for the good idea! :)

  3. Janet says:

    I liked this article.

    What a lot of good ideas, particularly liked the chalk board, and you also have a place for your chalks.

  4. michellemorgan says:

    Love the ornaments & chalkboard The wine I usually buy has a screw top, because I have cheap taste! need to save up for some expensive bottles, and then I can get making :)

  5. michellemorgan says:

    Oh, and hurrah for seeing some a mass of creative re-use ideas on here, Something i am very passionate about.

  6. Donna Karn-Cox says:

    Great Ideas!! I am currently creating a Radiant Arch Design to place above the Window in our Hot Tub House (great place to enjoy wine & precious corks). I never thought about “feeding” the slightly damaged corks to ‘Fertile Myrtle’ our Compost Heap! We love to Recycle Everything!

  7. BrookeBF says:

    Apparently there are good options to recycle cork too. Our (very large) local liquor store chain collects corks and donates $1 for each one to charity. The corks collected get recycled. I’m guessing they either make a little money from the recycling. Hopefully more retailers will start looking into that option.

    @BrookeBF from @RecycleMatch

  8. norma says:

    I made Christmas decorations from my corks and gave them away. I have a friend who has the roof of her house filled with the corks. I guess if you can re-use them, that’s my excuse to open up another bottle of wine.

    Great ideas.

  9. Calisara says:

    Great ideas!!! I’m making a kitchen mat with wine corks, and garland with my champagne ones!! LOVE that chair though :)

  10. Alyson says:

    Love the chair too. I just put ours in the compost whole.

  11. Cate B says:

    Isn’t it about time we pestered the wine industry to start labelling the bottles with the type of cork used? For ages we avoided new world wines which use plastic corks as they don’t have a cork industry but now even quality French wine producers are starting to use plastic too and you can’t tell until you open the bottle!

  12. Lisa D says:

    Corks are great in the garden too…they can serve as filters for drainage in the bottom of plant pots, or in very hot, arid gardens one can add a good layer or two of them over top of the soil in the pot to prevent water condensation during the day. I have a section in my own backyard garden that reflects full sun on the south side of the house – so I have layered that entire section! (keeps the weeds down, too!)

  13. CarSue says:

    I’ve used particularly decorative corks as beads on my jewelry by simply drilling a hole throught the center.

  14. Condo Blues says:

    A wine loving friend of mine has a display of wine corks in a market basket on a sideboard that stores his wine glasses. It’s so pretty!

  15. Wow – what a great response to recycling corks! Corks are actually “my precious.” I love the feel and texture o them for smart craft. Although I am saving corks for a cork board, I am now rather keen to have a go at decorations. I hadn’t seen that idea previously so thanks for that, Mrs Green. And….my new site is up so please do go and have a nosey around and let me know your thoughts.

  16. Jean Swift says:

    If we’re talking Zero Waste, I think corks are the daftest idea for topping ott bottles. It was invented, I suppose, before our wasteful society thought of plastic and, worse, plastic-coated tinfoil, Corks have to be kept wet to prevent shrinakge and therefore damage to wine, so the bottles have to be kept lying down. In cellars and warehouses, I suppose, that is neither here nore there; same area of space any way up.
    But once a cork is used to close a bottle (and I speak as a winemaker so i know what I’m talking about) then it becomes the most difficult means of opening that bottle.
    I am stuck with the necessity of a key for opening my front door, a separate one for the back door, one for the garden shed and one for the coal shed, one for my car and another for the boot, not to mention a key for the petrol tank. Is it any wonder I’m driven to drink?
    But I need a special opener for a beer can because I’ve broken all my fingernails on the other keys. One for the pop bottle to keep the kids quiet and yet another one to untwist the lemonade to dilute the whisky I have to drink because I can’t find the ****** corkscrew!

  17. Bridget Woodhouse says:

    I have re-cycled corks for years, drill a hole half way through lengthways and push firmly on the top of garden canes, a great way to protect you when bending over the flower borders. To make them decorative you can always paint them first.

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Hazel: I think using them as firelighters is a fine idea – the ones you buy are so toxic.

    @Sooz: No problem sooz; I rather fancy a cork chair too!

    @RecycleBill: Thanks Bill, good to know for our US friends.

    @Janet: Hi Janet, some people are SO creative; maybe one day I’ll get around to doing something like this myself ;)

    @michellemorgan: LOL! You can get a few cheap bottles with corks ;)

    @Donna Karn-Cox: Loving the fertile Myrtle name – now I don’t feel so bad at calling my cooker Alice ;)

    @BrookeBF: $1 for each one? Really? That seems so much; great to hear though…

    @norma: well ya know, I don’t want people blaming their drinking habits on me :D

    @Calisara: the garland sounds neat; I would love to have the patience to make one. Perhaps we should all club together for a chair!

    @Alyson: Do they break up Alyson?

    @Cate B: Absolutely right Cate – it would be good to have it labelled clearly so there are no nasties when you get home.

    @Lisa D: Loving your ideas, Lisa; never thought of using them as drainage material – thank you!

    @CarSue: thanks Sue, I’ll never look at a cork in the same way!

    @Condo Blues: Oh nice! Modern art and I guess they are all so different too. I like that idea.

    @Megan Bayliss: thanks Megan, enjoy your crafting and I’ll be sure to visit your site in a mo :)

    @Jean Swift: well I feel for you Jean, but you did give me a much-needed laugh this evening, so thank you for sharing ;)

    @Bridget Woodhouse: fantastic – so many great ideas being shared on this thread; thank you Bridget

  19. giusi says:

    when a knob on a lid of a pot breaks, simple screw a cork onto the remaining screw on the outside of the lid of the pot. A champaigne bottle cork is ideal. Just cut to size before screwing onto the screw. It will not overheat and is easily replaceable if it wears off. I have done this several times already.

  20. giusi says:

    excellent ideas. never thought of such clever ways to use the corks. You can also make door curtains to keep the flies out, by threading the corks onto a gutline to the length desired, vertically or horizontally.

  21. giusi says:

    you can also cut out shapes and stamp with paint on fabric and paper

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @giusi: Hi giusi, I LOVE your suggestion for the saucepan handle. Mr Green repaired one of mine the other week, but it’s nowhere near as pretty as your suggestion! The one for stamping is cute too, but not sure I have the patience for such intricate work!

  23. Jane says:

    I’ve printed with these too. They make a good alternative to the potato print. They last longer and are a good size for little hands. For one year’s Christmas card I printed the green holly leaves with a potato print and small son printed the red berries.

  24. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: sounds lovely Jane – very intricate :)

  25. Petr CZ says:

    The clock: great! Chrismas wreath – original. Notic board – good. We┬┤ll try it!

  26. Mrs Green says:

    @Petr CZ: Welcome Petr and I’m glad you found some things in the post you feel you could try yourself!

  27. Lobma says:

    Corks are ideal for putting on the end of garden canes, that you use to prop up plants. They are a perfect remedy to safeguard against canes pocking your eye out, as you bend over the plant.

    Just cut a hole in the end of the cork and push the slit into the cane.

  28. Jane says:

    - a safe place too for the sharp ends of fish hooks, corkscrews and needles in a box in transit or in a drawer.

  29. Mrs Green says:

    @Lobma: @Jane: Thanks for adding your ‘health and safety’ ideas – great for making us feel better about the odd tipple ;)

  30. Susan says:

    First off, please make sure to buy wine with natural cork (as opposed to plastic) corks. The decrease in demand for cork threatens the economic survival of cork farmers in Spain and elsewhere (and thus the cork oak forests which are important habitats for a multitude of animals). Please note that the trees are not killed in order to harvest the cork — many of the trees are hundreds of years old.

    More about cork forests here:
    http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/mediterranean/about/forests/cork/

    Secondly, a tip for anyone living in Germany: NaBu collects corks and turns them into insulating material. The proceeds go to a project protecting cranes in both Spain and Germany. Google “nabu-Korkkampagne” or call your local NaBu office for collection points.

  31. Mrs Green says:

    @Susan: Hello Susan, we are great fans of real corks; the challenge is knowing before you buy. Thanks for the tip for our German readers :)

  32. michael.ka says:

    When all my friends and sisters got their babies, I made -at times quite big- hanging mobiles out of cork pieces. The only limit is your imagination and the problem how to transport them in the end. I made a cut with a sharp knife /blade and pulled string through, so it got jammed, no glue needed. Beforehand I cut odd shapes out of the corks, too. one could of course also paint them. These mobiles move easily and are a very specal and personal and always unique gift. Dont forget to re-balance them before you present them…

  33. michael.ka says:

    I love the chair! Has anyone a building instruction for one, or a stool; in partucular, how to fix them together in a sturdy, durable way- without having to stick corks on a wooden chair- that would be cheating.
    Thanks.

  34. Mrs Green says:

    @michael.ka: Hello Michael, I like the idea of your mobiles; I bet they look great. I don’t have instructions for the chair I’m afraid. Why not contact the artist and see if she can help?

  35. jasin says:

    i have you grade in galileo you gesehen

  36. Mrs Green says:

    @jasin: Welcome Jasin – – good to see you here; we hope you enjoyed the show!

  37. Rachel says:

    The reason for plastic corks is that they greatly reduce the probability of the wine being “corked” (spoiled due to bacteria that can grow on corks). 1 in 10 bottles of wine with real corks are “corked”. That said, I’m loving these ideas! What about dolls made from corks strung on wire in a mannequin shape?

  38. Susan says:

    @Rachel: I’m convinced that the real reason for plastic corks is that they’re cheaper.;)

    I’m managing to mostly avoid them by buying organic wine from a few selected vineyards. On the occasions I do end up with plastic corks, I cut them in half and use them as spacers between outer and inner flower pots so my plants don’t get “wet feet”.

  39. Mrs Green says:

    @Rachel: Like the figures artists use to get proportions of the huyman body? Your idea sounds like a nice project for kids too :)

    @Susan: Love the flower pot ideas Susan – thank you!

  40. Ana says:

    Hi! Great blog! Thanks for all these ideas. You should check out this blog; it has great ideas for teachers. Here is one with the corks; I think she does really cool things:

    http://reciclandoenlaescuela.blogspot.com/2012/01/100-cien.html

    It’s in Spanish but she uses lots of pictures so that anyone can use the ideas even though you don’t understand the text.

  41. Mrs Green says:

    @Ana: These are lovely ideas; I LOVE the little men / gnomes. Thanks for taking the time to share Ana!

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