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Can I recycle wine bottle closures?


About 55 million cases of bottled wine are sold in California each year. Of those, about 70% are closed with cork stoppers, 16% with metal screw tops and 14% with plastic, according to Amorim, the Portuguese cork supplier that runs the cork-reclamation group ReCork.

Most wine stoppers are wrapped in “foil” that covers the top of the bottle, some of which is made from a mixture of lead and tin (on some older bottles, because that wrapper was banned in 1996 by the Food and Drug Administration); other covers are made from polylaminate aluminum and most from a heat-shrink plastic — usually polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride, a.k.a. PVC.

In L.A., the foils, or wrappers, are not recyclable because the many materials from which they are made are too difficult to distinguish. The only exception is the metal wire cages on champagne bottle tops, which are recyclable.

As for the stoppers, aluminum screw tops can be recycled. Plastic stoppers can be recycled as well, but only if they are marked with a chasing arrows symbol. Natural cork cannot go in the recycling bin, nor is it compostable in the green waste bin because it doesn’t break down fast enough in the city’s composters.


Wine lovers can recycle real cork stoppers through ReCork or Terracycle. People with at least 15 pounds of cork can request mailers from ReCork and send them to the Napa, Calif.-based organization, which, through its partnership with the shoe manufacturer Sole, recycles them into footwear. Terracycle works in partnership with nonprofit groups and individuals who’ve signed up for its Cork Brigade.

Because policies and recommendations can vary from city to city, each week we ask a sampling of officials from various municipalities to weigh in. This week's topic had enough moving parts that we put the answers into this chart.


 -- Susan Carpenter

Drawing by Steve Sedlam. Photo by Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (12)

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You can take old wine corks and make them into useful things like trivets and corkboards. All you need is a hot glue gun.

Corks made of cork don't compost but they do enliven mulch. I used to toss mine out the window into the garden.

Thanks for this useful information on wine stoppers ,i was thinking about this recycle plan but thanks to you for bringing this psot and saved my lot of time and effort to search that your post is very complete post on the stoppers of wines bottles ...now i know the main theme aluminum screw tops can be recycled

I put all my natural cork wine stoppers in my compost. True, it takes a while for them to decay, but they do. I just toss corks back & forth to my 2 different bins periodically.

Neat article, Susan. We want to point out too that TerraCycle also collects synthetic closures. Nomacorc partners with TerraCycle to help collect wine closures and upcycle them into corkboards. We collect natural and alternative closures – not just our own synthetic corks. Leading wine retailers have joined in too and we have collected more than 2 million closures so far!

Most Whole Foods locations will accept corks for recycling.

I am in North Carolina and our local Whole Foods Supermarket has a large communal container for recycling cork stoppers. Check it out!

I'm still trying to figure out how I can even recycle wine bottles. Most places won't take them because they don't say CA CRV on them.

There are also avid cork collectors.. who simply couldn't live without corks!

Whole Foods launched a cork recycling program in all stores last April - unfortunately it is not widely known and the collection bins do not seem to be prominently placed. We should all comment at the stores and encourage them to promote it!

Natural cork glued to a back board and jammed into an unglassed picture frame (a box cutter takes care of the depth required) makes a handy note board. Just add the pins.

By choosing to recycle wine corks and reuse them for new products, consumers are helping to raise awareness of this soft woods’ viability as a long-term solution to other dwindling natural resources.


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