Cork is the outer bark of the evergreen cork oak (Quercus suber). This variety of oak grows mainly in Portugal, Spain, southern France, Italy, and the Maghreb. It consists of a tight web of up to 40 million cells per cubic centimetre. The cell membranes retain gas, giving cork its capacity to float, insulate and re-expand quickly after compression.
Cork is natural, recyclable and biodegradable. No natural or man-made material replicates its properties. In a world of growing environmental awareness, the cork oak survives without the use of chemical herbicides, fertilisers or irrigation. Moreover, it’s the only tree that regenerates after harvesting.
Cork renews itself naturally, as cork oak barkgrows 1.0 to 1.5 millimetres each year retaininga huge amount of CO2 from the atmosphereduring his growth.
Once the trunk’s circumference has reached 70 centimetres, the cork can be stripped. The tree is then harvested in regular cycles throughout its lifespan, usually over 150 years. Each cork oak provides an average of 16 bark strippings.
Traditional harvesting methods allow the cork oak to thrive without the use of synthetic herbicides, fertilisers or irrigation.The stripping, when done by professional loggers, does not harm the tree, because the first layer of reproduction cork merges with the continuously developing virgin layer in the unstripped part of the tree. To keep the trees in good health, government laws regulate the harvesting of cork oaks. Trees are harvested in cycles of not less than nine years.
Cork retains unique qualities of flexibility, elasticity and compressibility. Its extreme resilience, impermeability, lightness and insulating efficiency make it ideal for a large number of applications, such as a closure for wine and spirits, cork is used in industries as diverse as floors (floating floor and cork tiles), shoe manufacturing, construction (insulator planks), automotives (gaskets), leisure (fishing rods), upholstery (cork textile) and a wide range of cork finished articles (handbags, wallets, accessories).