Total waste generation worldwide is expected to double by 2025, and local companies have a vital role to play in reducing our environmental footprint.
In the past five years, sparkling wine sales have increased by 76%, and the UK is now the largest market for champagne outside of France. In 2016/17 alone, Britons consumed a total of 1.62m hectolitres—or 162 Olympic-size swimming pools; and for every bottle popped, there is a cork stopper. Until recently, this waste cork nowhere to go except in the bin.
West Midlands success story Recorked UK recognised the problem of waste cork as a commercial opportunity and an opportunity to do their bit for the environment and the local community at the same time. Originally specialising in spice gift sets, loose teas, and cookware, the firm’s managing director Sanjay Aggarwal set out to introduce the UK’s first-ever cork recycling scheme after meeting with a representative of the Portuguese natural cork industry.
Recorked UK’s recycling scheme supplies businesses nationwide with recycling stations and recycling sacks free-of-charge. These include pubs, restaurants, wine merchants, vineyards, and even household names like The Ritz and Chester Racecourse.
Once each partnered business has filled their sack, a collection is arranged to allow the waste material to be sorted for resale and repurposing.
Support from EBRI
Recorked UK’s founder was originally inspired to explore a new direction for the company after attending one of EBRI’s Value from Waste Master Classes in Stoke-on-Trent in the West Midlands.
During the two-day course, he discovered the potential for new opportunities from a wide range of materials traditionally discarded as waste. In addition to cork, these materials include food, cardboard, plastic, textile residues, sawdust, waste oils, manure, hay straw, sugar beet residue, and many more.
Our EBRI Master Classes are part of an EU European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) initiative, which provides practical help to small and medium-sized enterprises across the West Midlands to develop new products and services.
Our research is available on PURE at https://research.aston.ac.uk/en/organisations/energy-and-bioproducts-research-institute-ebri
New Market Opportunities
216 million bottles of sparkling wine are consumed each year globally, and waste cork remains a lucrative yet under-explored market. Following EBRI’s Master Class event, our specialist research associates provided Recorked UK with guidance around the potential for repurposing natural waste cork.
EBRI provided a detailed breakdown well as a chemical and physical analysis to help explore cork’s most promising alternative applications, including its usefulness as a fuel source and even its potential within the pharmaceutical industry. For instance, cork contains substances such as sterols and flavonoids, both of which hold promising anti-oxidant and cholesterol-lowering benefits.
A unique and under-utilised material, cork also makes for an environmentally friendly alternative for use in thermal insulation, flooring tiles, soil conditioner, ecoceramics, cement applications, and composting.
EBRI’s findings and recommendations enabled Sanjay to consider various new opportunities for his business, both in the energy-from-waste arena as well product development. He has subsequently shared these ideas with the UK Cork Industry Federation, of which he is a member.
The evaluation provided by EBRI has widened the horizon for Recorked UK to form beneficial partnerships with established businesses and associations, including new suppliers and customers.
We welcome collaboration opportunities with academia, government bodies and industry from around the world.
Energy and Bioproducts Research institute (EBRI)