Cork comes from the thick outer bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber). Harvesting the cork involves a delicate operation of removing the bark from the tree by hand, leaving the tree unharmed, allowing the tree to continue its growth so the bark with regenerate. The complete regeneration occurs on average on a 9 year cycle, though depending on the climate and conditions during that time period, this can vary slightly. As the bark regrows, carbon from the atmosphere is stored in the cork cells, essentially encapsulating it (helping purify the air).
Portugal has roughly 800,000 hectares of highly controlled cork plantations, with that number increasing by about 10,000 hectares annually. Though the majority of all the cork harvested in Portugal ends up as wine bottle enclosures, a mainstay process of some of our partner factories, there is a surprising amount of industry that has been created using the by-product material from the stopper industry. Today, new trees are being planted at twice the rate at which old trees are dying, putting aside the myth that the cork forests are in peril.