In a world in desperate need of eco-friendly alternatives, cork stands out of the crowd as the number one sustainable raw material.
And, if this isn't reason enough for you to start buying cork products, we can show you several other advantages you might not know of...
Cork is a slow combustion material. That is to say, yes it burns but very slowly and it doesn't produce flame so it doesn't spread. Also, when burning, the smoke that it releases is not toxic.
Do you want to be amazed on cork's HUGE advantage when compared to other insulators? Check out this video...
Despite its "spongy" look, cork is waterproof. The 40 million cells contained in each cubic centimeter of cork might make you think that cork is absorbent like a sponge, however, these cells contain suberin, a natural fatty substance that makes cork waterproof. This means it is also mould proof as there is no retention of water within its cells.
Being elastic, compressible, sturdy, slow combustion and water and gas impermeable, naturally means that cork is one tough, long lasting material.
And, even being one tenacious guy, cork is still 100% recyclable. It is possible to ground every piece of cork, no matter how small, how big or in what conditions it was.
After grounded, cork can be used in countless ways, being the most common one as a raw material to other products.
As an excellent thermal, acoustic and anti-vibration insulation material, cork can be applied in numerous building projects (bridges, runways and motorways) to fill expansion joints between concrete, brick or cement elements. Cork ensures fully airtight joints in dams, water reservoirs and swimming pools, which is essential for their functionality and safety. Pure expanded agglomerate boards (or black agglomerate) on roofing, exterior or interior walls and on flooring underlay are a real barrier, light but resistant to temperature changes and even to fire, noise and vibration.
Pure expanded agglomerate can also be transformed back into grains to produce the so-called expanded cork regranulate, used to make light concrete (mixed with sand and cement), as well as to fill gaps in flooring and walls.
The production of expanded cork agglomerates only uses steam from super-heated water boilers, which are fueled by the actual waste from the grinding and finishings. This product is 100% natural and ecological as no other products besides cork are involved and even the agglomeration is based on natural cork resins.
Cork powder, an important waste product, is produced during the processing of cork products. This powder is commonly burned to produce steam and/or energy that will be used in the factories themselves, given the high-energy content of this material.
The use of cork products is also very important from an ecological point of view, since by choosing a natural and renewable material to be transformed into long-term products, not only is the sustainability of the Mediterranean forest and its different habitats guaranteed, but the fixation of carbon dioxide is also increased.
For the Portuguese cork is a traditional material, deeply connected with our past and memories. But is it possible to take this amazing material to the future? Most definitely yes!
Cork's characteristics and properties called the world's attention. The possibilities are close to endless, the limits are still very far from being reached.
As a matter of fact, it is still impossible to see the end in regards to cork's possibilities.
During these last years, architects, designers, decorators and stylists have regained interest in natural materials, especially cork, which is increasingly more sought after as an ecological alternative with enormous potential.
Several Portuguese designers and architects are producing original designs using this distinctly Portuguese material. In the context of highly fashionable Design for Sustainability and Eco-design, one can find some good examples on what is being done. Ana Mestre with her puf-fup; Rui Pedro Freire with the Memória desTerra; the British design studio Dois Trinta with their duo comprised of the Évora chair and the Suave support table.
In the world of fashion, cork has always been used but only now it is starting to become famous.
During the economic sanctions that Germany posed to Italy, Salvatore Ferragamo was unable to buy the quality steel essential to the construction of the Ferragamo shoes. That's when he decided to experiment with pieces of cork, inventing the wedge, destined to be on of the most famous fashion inventions of the 40's.
Nowadays, cork is being used by several renown stylists but also, specially in Portugal and Spain, by smaller companies that are starting to use cork in everyday objects as an alternative to animal leather.
Cork - The eco-friendly alternative to leather
As for the automotive industry, the new car seat, an innovative prototype, entirely made in Portugal by the company Acecia, represents the perfect marriage between design and technology. Its cork made base makes it three times lighter and has half the volume of traditional seats. With the added benefit of being recyclable, this cushion is made from 60% ground cork and offers the same comfort with half the volume. With this, Acecia captivated the powerful automotive parts industry.