Where Does Cork Come from?
It all starts in the cork oak forest. Cork is produced from the bark of the cork oak tree, which grows mostly in Spain and Portugal. The montado landscape of Portugal produces approximately 50% of cork harvested annually worldwide, with Corticeira Amorim being the leading company in the industry.
The lightweight, spongy bark contains billions of tiny air cells. These cells allow cork to float, insulate, and bounce back when compressed. Workers strip the thick bark from the trees with long-handled hatchets. In about ten years, a new layer of cork will be ready to harvest. The trees live for about 300 years.
Once again, the same tree will add to the world’s supply of bottle corks, fishing bobbers, cork tile, insulation board, gasket or sealer material, and many other useful products.
The bark then regenerates, its texture improving with each subsequent harvest for seven cycles, after which the quality declines generally producing lower quality cork. The cork industry is generally regarded as environmentally friendly.
Cork production is generally considered sustainable due to the fact that the cork tree is not cut down to obtain cork; only the bark is stripped to harvest the cork. The tree continues to live and grow. The sustainability of production and the easy recycling of cork products and by-products are two of its most distinctive aspects.
Cork Oak forests also prevent desertification and are a particular habitat in the Iberian Peninsula and the refuge of various endangered species.