… As a responsible thriving renewables company, we’re increasing efforts in awareness. Not just for our solutions, but the local and regional Algarve environment.
We focus on Cork Oak Forests… there aren’t many areas where Portugal is THE world leader, but cork is one of them. And cork is almost a perfect “raw” product. These forests make up one of the richest eco-systems in the world. Alongside places like the African savannahs, the Amazon and Borneo… which is important stuff.
They have a delicate balance and this ecosystem only exists in the Mediterranean Basin. Trees grow from sea level up to 500 metres. Not only this, more than 200 animal species and over 130 different types of plants thrive in these ideal conditions. Usefully cork oak forests act as a barrier against fires, given their slow combustibility.
Portugal has some 737,000 hectares of oak forests out of a total of 2.2 million in the Western Mediterranean Basin, which 0.70 million hectares is across North Africa. This is a region that provides the finest conditions in soil composition, temperature, water and altitude. Portugal has circa 34% of the world’s area with Spain and Morocco with 27%, and 18% respectively. The forests have the capacity to absorb over 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year, importantly helping to reduce greenhouse effects, which is the main cause of global warming.
Cork is a raw product that can be obtained without cutting down trees. It ticks the boxes for the 3 R’s of sustainability – it’s renewable, recyclable and reusable. And cork trees have good longevity, living for up to 200 years. During the tree’s lifetime it can be stripped over 15 times. The first time after 25 years, then it needs 9 years to recover. By the third time (another 9 years), the cork acquires a superior quality.
The cork extraction process (stripping) is highly specialised but does not damage the tree. Oddly it’s the only oak tree whose bark regenerates after each stripping exercise. In production, cork requires low energy usage. Uniquely, it is the only raw material that guarantees the same performance during the product’s lifetime.
Workers get paid handsomely. They need to know exactly how to handle and work. The cork industry creates many jobs. It helps stave desertification. Over 100,000 people across the Mediterranean work directly and indirectly with cork. A lot is at stake.
Fortunately the acumen of Portugal’s Amorim family was able to keep cork relevant when cheap alternative seals hit the market 20 years ago. The Company, Corticeira Amorim wisely invested heavily, and diversified into new sectors (like construction, aviation and rail) and expanded into luxury.
Next time you pull a cork from your favorite bottle of wine, stop, savour and have a think…
Send us your comments or opinion on this article.