Over 48,000 corks recycled!

February 2nd, 2015

To date, you have helped us divert over 48,000 wine corks from the solid waste stream. That’s over 48 cubic feet of perfectly reusable cork. Thanks!

We are currently engineering for a jig to use for water jet cutting the recycled corks into uniform thickness ’tiles’ that would be supplied in square foot sheets to apply the same way ceramic floor tiles are installed.

It would be ‘loaded’ similar to the arrangement shown in the image above. The loaded jig would be locked into position for CNC cutting with a high-pressure water jet. Tiles would be quality sorted and then mounted on mesh backing in square foot sheets.

The engineering and prototyping is an expensive process, so we are considering crowd-funding to take this to the production stage. Details to follow!

Harvesting cork bark

October 31st, 2013

Great video clearly shows the harvesting process. Cork trees are first harvested when they are about 20 years old. They can be reharvested every nine years or so. In this video you’ll see workers painting a large white “9” on the trunk after the bark has been stripped. This is the year (2009) that the tree was harvested, so they can tell when the same trees are ready for the next harvest. The ones shown in this video would be ready again around 2018. This process can be repeated throughout the life of the tree which is about 200 years. Now that’s sustainability.

21,000 corks shipped to Industrial Design at ECU

October 4th, 2012

This September, in collaboration with Cork It, we shipped 16.7 cubic feet of corks to Emily Carr University for use in their industrial design faculty’s “New Wood Materials” class. We’re hoping that all the bright young minds in ECU’s Industrial Design program will develop products and processes that allow us to reprocess our recycled corks right here in Vancouver.

The 16.7 cubic feet we provided weighed 92 kg (203 lb) which represented ~21,000 corks. Processing corks here, rather than transporting them to Jelinek in Ontario, is more cost effective and will avoid the emissions resulting from their transport over 4,338 km (2,695 miles). According to the Texas Transportation Institute, shipping this weight over that distance by transport truck would result in 386 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions —almost twice the weight of the goods being shipped!

So we should not only think about shopping locally, we should also think about recycling locally!

Let’s see what ECU’s best and brightest come up with. We’ll keep you informed.

Manufacturer Located to Assemble Tile Sheets

June 22nd, 2011

prototype cork tile discs beside production ceramic tile discs

We have sourced a Vancouver, BC tile manufacturer that has the capacity to assemble sheets of cork tiles similar to the test sample you see here.

These prototype discs were manually cut with a sharp kitchen knife and glued to drywall patching mesh with a hot glue gun. They were sanded with an orbital sander and sealed with 2 coats of urethane.

They were cut to the same thickness as the white production run ceramic tiles you see in the background. Coincidentally, they are also nearly the same diameter and spacing, suggesting that these could be combined nicely.

With the ability to assemble these mesh-backed sheets of cork ’tiles’, our current stumbling block is the cutting process. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, if you have suggestions for a suitable method of cutting these discs, we’d love to hear from you!

Laser-cutting Failed!

June 20th, 2011

cork cut with laser burnedIn my search for a suitable method to trim used wine corks into uniformly thick discs with finished surfaces, I contacted a firm with laser cutting equipment. They took a batch of natural corks and synthetic stoppers to experiment with.

I had hoped the laser cutting would provide a clean surface that needed no additional finishing, but results suggest this method is not a suitable option. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for cork slicing equipment

May 30th, 2011

wine corks sliced into discs suitable for cork flooring tilesCalling all process engineering experts!

We’re looking for cork slicing equipment that would be suitable for trimming used wine corks into consistent thickness discs similar to the ones shown in this photo.

If you can recommend the best equipment or process to accomplish this — or if you operate equipment in the lower mainland area of British Columbia, we’d love to hear from you!

We are also looking for remanufacturing processes suitable for the synthetic wine stoppers that find their way into the natural corks we collect. So ideally this equipment would also be suitable for synthetic stoppers.

If you have equipment that you think would be suitable, please let us know and we can provide a batch of natural corks and synthetic stoppers for testing.

Synthetic stoppers should look synthetic

December 16th, 2010

Manufacturers of synthetic wine stoppers have done a great job of matching the appearance of natural cork. Great aesthetic, but this is a real problem when it comes to separating natural and synthetic corks for recycling.

All 4 corks shown in the right of this photo are synthetic. You can see how good a match the second cork is to the natural one on the far left. However the 3 on the right are all obviously synthetic. When it comes to manually sorting wine stoppers the best solution is a quick visual difference.

Despite the best efforts of our cork recyclers, synthetic stoppers still make up about 20% of the total volume we collect and when they’re a close visual match to natural cork it really slows down the sorting process. To date there is no automated method to sort these material since their characteristics are very similar.

Calling all process innovators — if you have a method in mind, we’d love to hear from you!