Kelowna bottle depot helps make sustainable footwear with recycled wine corks

Used wine cork collected at Return-It will now be recycled into eco-friendly footwear

Wine drinkers in Kelowna can feel even better after imbibing this patio season knowing every part of the bottle will be recycled.

Every used natural wine cork collected at the Return-It Boucherie Self Storage and Bottle Depot in Kelowna will now be recycled into eco-friendly footwear starting Tuesday (June 1).

The initiative is a partnership between Return-It, natural wine cork recycling program ReCORK and sustainable footwear company SOLE.

ReCORK and SOLE work together to make sustainable footwear with used wine corks as a sustainable replacement for fossil fuel-derived foams.

Once consumers have dropped off used wine corks at the collection facility, the material will be sent to ReCORK for processing then used by SOLE to manufacture eco-friendly materials for shoes and sandals.

Each pair of shoes made with recycled cork contains between 22 and 60 wine corks.

Harvested from trees, cork is a carbon-negative material that can be used to make footwear cushioning in place of less environmentally friendly, petroleum-based materials like foams and plastics.

Another environmental benefit of cork is that cork oak forests continue absorbing CO2 after the bark is removed to harvest the cork.

For each tonne of cork harvested, the forest absorbs 70 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. Harvesting the bark boosts the cork oak tree’s carbon consumption three to five times, and can extend the tree’s lifespan to over 300 years.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, SOLE says their cork footwear cushioning is naturally elastic, moisture-wicking, odour-reducing and supportive.

The initiative aims to help the B.C. wine industry meet its environmental sustainability goals.

If the program in Kelowna is a success, Return-It will consider bringing it to other collection facilities across the province.

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