ETICO, the second life of Corks

ETICO is a project that collects corks and turns them to other uses, such as design and furniture. Here we explain what types of cork are of interest to us, and why collecting them is an important stage in the cork production cycle.

We started in 2011. Today we recover more than 25,000,000 used corks through collaborations with around 45 non-profit organisations, involving more than 1,000 volunteers and more than 6,000 collection points.
For every tonne of recovered corks our company donates 700 euros. We cannot buy waste corks.
In simple terms, how does the recycling process work? And what other ethics does the company uphold, for example in sustainable energy production?

We’ve helped to set up two authorized centres where the waste corks are mashed up and recyled. The first is in the Veneto, in the province of Treviso; the other is in the province of Cuneo, Piedmont. The corks arrive in these centres and are sorted through, in order to weed out impurities and plastic bottle tops. Then they’re all mashed up, which produces a pulp – the corks are no longer waste at this point; they’re a secondary raw material. This pulp is used in bioconstruction, in design, in building blocks, flooring and other applications. But it cannot come into contact with food and drink.

What social impact is this project having, and what impact will it have in the future?

The project is hugely important for the 3 pillars of sustainability:
Environmental quality: from garbage, we extract a harmless, useful material and give it a new life. In Italy, almost one billion corks are thrown away).
Social justice: we remunerate companies to a value almost 6 times higher than that of plastic bottle tops (as from PET bottles) and thus further many causes of high social and ethical value.
Economic prosperity: we create value in a material which otherwise would have none. This is the ambition behind our collection of design objects: to demonstrate that we can create an enormous added value in something that starts as mere waste.

Carlos Veloso dos Santos is the Amorim Cork Italy Spa CEO, leader company in production of cork caps.