Where does cork come from?
Cork is the outer bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus Suber L.)
This tree is found in the Western Mediterranean Basin, where the type of soil, climate, temperature and altitude offers the ideal growing conditions to prosper.
The cork oak tree thoroughly develops its bark over the years. The cork is harvested by specialized professionals, always between May and August, when the tree is at its most active phase of growth and it is easier to strip without damaging the trunk. The cork oak is the only tree whose bark regenerates, acquiring a smoother texture after each harvest. Over the course of its lifetime, which on average lasts 200 years, it may be stripped around 17 times.
Is all cork suitable for cork stoppers?
Not all harvested cork will be used for cork stoppers, as there are many different types of cork, varying in size, density or even subjected to different temperature and heat processes. This is an internal analysis that correlates the right kind of cork with the right application.
What are cork’s main features?
Cork benefits from properties such as thermal and acoustic insulation, resistance to fire and high temperatures, elasticity, and compressibility, and on top of all that, it is natural, reusable and recyclable. These properties are correlated with cork’s microscopic structure that considers a hive-like structure filled with gas.
What is the cork oak forest’s total area?
Cork oak forests occupy an estimated area of over 2.2 million acres in the Western Mediterranean basin.
Around 90% of the species is distributed in Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Algeria. Approximately 200,000 tons of cork are harvested from the world’s cork oak forests each year. Portugal, which has a third of the total area of cork oaks, is the largest producer, accounting for 50% of the world's cork production.
What resources are being used to keep cork plantations operating in the main geographical locations? Is cork an endangered natural resource?
Corticeira Amorim places major importance on knowledge of cork oak forests and improving the production of high-quality cork, assuming responsibility for preserving cork oak forests and their associated ecosystem services.
As a leader in the sector, it develops numerous initiatives aimed at valuing, protecting and gaining knowledge of cork oak forests in order to ensure more sustainable management.
Since 2013, Corticeira Amorim has organized and coordinated a Forestry Intervention Program, developed in close partnership with forestry producers, research institutions and local authorities that aims to ensure the maintenance, preservation and enhancement of cork oak forests and guarantee continuous production of high-quality cork.
The Program’s objectives include developing areas of cork oak forest with drip irrigation systems, sequencing the cork oak genome, improving the cork oak tree and combating pests and diseases.
Since 2013, the Amorim Group is responsible for 50,000 ha of new plantations. It represents an average of 350 cork oak trees planted per hectare, which will permit a total increase of 35% of worldwide cork production.
Is cork availability limited?
The cork oak tree has two harvests before being able to produce cork that can be used for cork stoppers. The first two, however, are used for other applications. After the production for the cork stoppers, the remaining cork is grinded and agglomerated in one of Amorim’s business units, Amorim Cork Composites, which has applications from aerospace, flooring, consumer goods, construction, footwear, etc. It’s clear from this description that there are different types of cork that are leveraged for many applications and availability of raw material is not an issue, as cork is always geared to the application with the greatest value.
“According to the Portuguese National Statistics Institute, in the recent Economic Accounts for Forestry (23 June 2020), cork production has recorded successive nominal increases since 2013. Growth in 2018 was up 25.1 percent on the previous year (…)”. Source: APCOR, 2020
What is the importance of cork oak forests in terms of biodiversity?
The cork oak forest is part of one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots, has a recognized protection status, contributes to climate regulation, is a driving force for sustainable development and plays a crucial role in the world's ecological balance.
What externalities/benefits do cork oak forests provide to society?
Corticeira Amorim commissioned an independent study of the ecosystem services of the cork oak forest (Study carried out by EY on the total net value added to society by Corticeira Amorim in 2018).
Considering four case studies, EY was able to identify three main ecosystem services provided:
- Climate regulation
- Fire prevention
- Prevention of soil loss
Why are cork oak forests natural fire-retardants?
Cork burns without a flame and does not emit toxic gases during combustion.
What is the importance of cork oak forests in terms of carbon sequestration?
A recent study by EY (2019) revealed that considering the carbon sink effect of the cork oak forest, made possible by the cork industry, the annual carbon sequestration promoted by Corticeira Amorim can be 17 times the greenhouse gas emissions of its entire value chain.
Other studies indicate that for each ton of cork produced, the cork oak forest can sequester up to 73 tons of CO2, which helps reduce the Global Warming Potential (Source).