B.C.’s Return-It program launches wine cork recycling program in West Kelowna

For people living in the Central Okanagan wine country, a bottle cork is no longer something to toss away as garbage.

On June 1, B.C.’s Return-It program introduced a pilot project to recycle wine corks at West Kelowna’s Boucherie Self Storage and Bottle Depot — and to turn them into environmentally friendly footwear material.

The non-profit program will ship the oak stoppers to Calgary-based recycling company ReCORK for processing and transforming into plastic alternatives for footbeds, shoes and sandals manufactured by footwear company SOLE.

Corks collected in the bin will be shipped to Calgary for processing and turning into eco-friendly footwear material. (Submitted by Jeremy Twigg)

According to ReCORK, each pair of its eco-friendly footwear contains 22 to 60 wine corks, which it says can absorb moisture and reduce odour. 

But not all wine corks are recyclable. Return-It asks drinkers not to drop in corks that are synthetic, waxed or attached with a plastic bar-top.

Return-It asks people to recycle natural oak corks only. (Submitted by Jeremy Twigg)

Return-It president and CEO Allen Langdon says it makes sense to do the pilot in the middle of a wine country like West Kelowna. It’s possible the pilot will expand into a provincewide initiative, he said.

“If we’re getting good volumes [of wine corks], then we’ll look for opportunities to expand the program,” Langdon told Chris Walker, the host of CBC’s Daybreak South.

Langon said he’s interested in what he called a “circular economy,” where the company finds multiple ways for the corks to be reused.

ReCORK says Pointe-Claire, Que., was the first Canadian municipality to adopt wine-cork recycling with the company, in Jan. 2019.

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