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Corks t’aint for landfills anymore


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You and your significant other just finished an especially good bottle of zinfandel. You should be feeling mellow, but there’s a problem. What do you do with the cork?

Houlihan’s Restaurants has a better solution than tossing your leftover corks in the trash, which ultimately end up in landfills. Recycle them.

ReCORK sandals

One of the many items the corks recycled by ReCORK are repurposed into are sandals, such as the ones above.

The Leawood, Kansas-based bar and restaurant has partnered with ReCORK, a national program that collects corks to be “upcycled” into useful items such as sandals and flooring.

In addition to recycling every cork its servers pop, Houlihan’s also serves as drop-off recycling centers. Customers have responded by bringing in corks by the Ziplock and grocery bag. Franchisees also like it. The chain has 100 percent franchisee participation, says Jennifer Gulvik, senior vice president of marketing.

According to ReCORK’s website, no tree has been killed in the making of cork; in fact, harvesting cork correctly more than triples cork trees’ lives. 

Why bother recycling when corks are biodegradable and cork is a renewable resource?

Because it takes up to 50 years for a cork tree to be ready for harvest and it can only be harvested every nine years, Gulvik says.

Once a restaurant collects 30 pounds of corks—about 3,000 corks—ReCORK sends a prepaid shipping label. And it doesn’t take as long to collect 30 pounds as one would imagine. “We sell a lot of wine,” Gulvik says. “We’re linking together drinking wine and doing good.” 

While the program is new to Houlihan’s, the parent company has been recycling corks from its company-owned steak and seafood concepts. 

To publicize the program, Houlihan’s sends out email blasts with discounts for corks donations. When the message mentions cork recycling, the open rates are 4 to 5 percent higher than other messages, Gulvik says. All the more reason to drink wine and do good.

 

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