Cork is a natural resource
Cork is a 100% natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material that is obtained through an environmentally friendly harvesting process.
Cork comes from the Cork Oak (Quercus Suber). The extraction process, which is called “descortiçamento”, is made by very experienced craftsmen as it is a very delicate task. The cork extraction is very healthy for the tree, for humans and the environment, there is a balance between all of them.
The first cork extraction is made at the end of 25 years, and this cork is called “Virgin Cork”. As it is a very hard cork, with lots of natural impurities, this kind of cork is only used to make granulates, which are used in acoustic and thermic insulation.
The next extractions are made every nine years, but it is only in the second and third extraction that we start to have the best cork to make fashion products. So we need more or less 43 years to have this quality of cork for Najha.
To produce leather cork – also called cork skin, that involves a lot of exquisite craftsmanship and technique, which has many delicate phases, from quality separation, to assembling cork blocks and, finally, to slice sheets that are thin and delicate, yet very resistant.
The number of corks produced annually throughout the world would be enough to complete 15 laps around the world.
Over 50% of cork’s volume is air, which makes it very light. It weighs just 0.16 grams per cubic centimeter, and it can float.
Impermeable to liquids and gases
It is totally impermeable to liquids and practically impermeable to gases, thanks to the suberin and cerin present in the composition of cork cells. Its resistance to moisture allows it to grow old without deteriorating.
Elastic and compressible
Cork can be compressed to around half its thickness without losing any flexibility, and it decompresses, recovering its initial shape and volume, as soon as it ceases to be compressed. This flexibility is provided by its airtight cells containing a gas mixture similar to air. It is the only solid that when compressed on one side does not increase in volume on the other axis. It is able to adapt to variations in temperature and pressure without suffering variations, due to its elasticity.
Excellent thermal and acoustic insulator
The 40 million cells in each cubic centimeter of cork act as a real decibel absorber, making it an excellent sound and vibration insulator. Its molecular structure allows it to absorb heat and retain it for a long period of time.
The slow combustion of cork makes it a natural fire retardant and a kind of barrier against fires. Cork burns without a flame and does not emit toxic gases during combustion.
Antistatic and anti-allergic
It does not absorb dust and prevents the appearance of mites and, therefore, contributes to protection against allergies.
The world’s largest and oldest cork oak is called Assobiador (the whistler). This name is inspired by the sounds of the songbirds that land on its branches. This Cork oak was planted in 1783 and it is over 14 metres high and has a trunk perimeter of 4.15 metres.
The workers who specialize in removing the cork are known as extractors. Extractors use a very sharp axe to make two types of cuts on the tree: one horizontal cut around the plant, called a crown or necklace, at a height of about 2-3 times the circumference of the tree, and several vertical cuts called rulers or openings. This is the most delicate phase of the work because, even though cutting the cork requires quite a bit of strength, the extractor must not damage the underlying phellogen or the tree will be harmed.
To free the cork from the tree, the extractor pushes the handle of the axe into the rulers. A good extractor needs to use a firm but precise touch in order to free a large amount of cork without damaging the product or tree.
Recycle. Re-use. ReHarvest
Equally important is our work to educate the public about the vital importance of preserving and protecting the Mediterranean cork forests. Cork collection boxes are placed in grocery stores, wine and bottle shops,and winery tasting rooms. We also partner with the Food and Beverage and Hospitality industries to collect cork at restaurants, hotels, wine bars, convention and performing arts centers.
How the Corks are Recycled
Equally important is our work to educate the public about the vital importance of preserving and protecting the Mediterranean cork forests. To take advantage of and preserve this valuable resource, a growing number of countries have taken measures to implement recycling initiatives, in order to raise awareness of the importance of this material among local populations. Although recycled cork is never reused to manufacture cork stoppers for wine, there are many other possible alternative applications. For example, cork boards, place mats, coasters, flooring, coverings, components for the motor vehicle industry, and insulation material are but a few products that demonstrate cork’s natural versatility.
We have some notable projects in Portugal. The Green Cork project developed by Quercus in partnership with Amorim and Continente hypermarkets started up in 2008. The cork stoppers are collected in supermarkets and shopping centres, and taken to be treated and grounded, transformed into granulate, and go back to being a raw material for a second life. The idea of Green Cork has extended to other countries such as Spain, USA, Canada, France, Italy, United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia.