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Wine corks into footwear: New recycling pilot program in Kelowna

Image Credit: UNSPLASH/John Murzaku

A new pilot recycling program in Kelowna is going to find out if the public will jump on board a plan to collect wine corks, made from actual cork, to be repurposed into footwear.

Return-It BC has launched its first wine cork collection program at the Boucherie Self Storage and Bottle Depot in Kelowna, according to a media release issued today, June 1.

Sustainably harvested cork is considered a carbon-negative material that can be repurposed into such items as footwear and cushioning, Return-It said.

Used natural wine corks can be dropped off at the collection facility for processing by ReCORK, a natural wine cork recycling program, which are then shipped to SOLE, a manufacturer of sustainable footwear that turns them into an ecologically-friendly replacement for fossil fuel-derived foams to make shoes and sandals.

A Return-It cork recycling bin is pictured in this submitted photo.
A Return-It cork recycling bin is pictured in this submitted photo.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Return-It

"We recognized an opportunity to collect this useful material, and work with processing and manufacturing partners to give it a new life," Return-It president Allen Langdon said in the release. "By utilizing our resources and systems, we are adding an exciting new element to our ongoing work around diverting material from the landfill and keeping it in our economy.

"This initiative is another example of how we’re engaged in a more circular vision of how our society can operate as we work towards circular solutions."

The pilot project is also compatible with the B.C. wine industry’s sustainability objectives.

“This new cork recycling initiative represents a positive step forward in our ongoing efforts to reduce waste and maximize the use of our natural resources," Sustainable Wine Growing BC chair Karen Gillis said in the release.

If the pilot project in Kelowna is a success, Return-It will consider implementing cork recycling at its other bottle depots in the province.

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