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Top 10 alternative uses for cork

For many people, cork represents little more than a handy stopper for keeping wine in its bottle until they’re ready to drink it.

Where it all starts: a recently harvested cork oak in Portugal's Alentejo region
Where it all starts: a recently harvested cork oak in Portugal’s Alentejo region

However, many of the properties which make this such an effective wine closure also mean that cork represents an attractive solution for numerous other industries.

The drinks business has already explored some of the many processes that transform this raw material into the stopper you remove at the end of a long day or that signals the start of a party. Now it’s time to look at what happens to the 70% of cork bark that doesn’t make the grade for this most high profile application.

Read on to discover why everyone from horses to astronauts and supermodels should be grateful to the humble cork oak for its extraordinary bark.

10. Horse racing plates

cork horse shoeRacehorses use extra-light shoes made from alumninium rather than steel to make sure they’re weighed down as little as possible. By coating this metal with a layer of cork, it is possible to cushion some of the impact stress on a horse’s legs, thereby reducing injury risk.

9. Trains

cork trains

By incorporating cork into the body of trains ordered for the new extension to Warsaw’s metro system, designers have been able to reduce the weight of each train by 18 tonnes, a move which will represent significant energy savings.

 8. Shoes


cork shoes

Even at the highest level of fashion, cork’s ability to combine style with comfort makes it a popular material, as shown by these Yves Saint Laurent wedges. A word of warning however: while €2 will buy you a top of the range cork stopper for your wine, shoes like these will set you back closer to £500.

7. Sporting equipment

cork sport

Ever looked inside a baseball or cricket ball? Cork also provides a comfortable but durable solution for table tennis bat and ski pole handles.

6. Handbags

cork bags

With its surprisingly durable but soft character, you might be forgiven for thinking this cork handbag was made from suede. The material also takes coloured dye well, opening up all sorts of creative options, including this leopard print design.

5. Space exploration

cork space rockets

Cork’s property as an insulator made it an ideal solution for NASA engineers working to tackle the extreme heat experienced by rockets as they blast through the earth’s atmosphere. The fact that this material is also lightweight and relatively cheap only added to the appeal.

4. Kitchenware

cork kitchen

At a more everyday level, this insulation means cork provides an excellent casing option for cooking dishes. Not only can it withstand high temperatures, but it won’t damage your kitchen surfaces when it comes out of the oven.

3. Flooring

cork flooring

All those restaurants where it’s impossible to hear your friend across the table should consider softening their acoustics with some cork flooring. Hardwearing yet cushioning – both for feet and dropped plates – the material is also proving popular in domestic kitchens. And, as this picture shows, it doesn’t have to come in the traditional cork colour either.

2. Surf boards

cork surf board

Light, buoyant and flexible, these cork composite surf and snow boards also offer a more natural-looking solution for playing in the great outdoors.

1. Wine racks


cork wine rack

We couldn’t resist including one product with a link to the wine industry that isn’t a cork stopper. These cork wine racks can hang up in the kitchen or campsite as a stylish but practical storage and display option.

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