Launching the 996 Cork Project

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What is the 996 Cork Project?

996 Cork Project is the initiative to recycle used natural wine corks and give them a second life by reshaping them into creative, artistic, and functional products. The project is initiated by 996Makers, a platform to celebrate the maker spirit in all things. We believe that food makers, product makers, even company makers all possess amazing maker spirit.

The two co-founders of 996Makers are tech and finance professionals with maker spirit in things beyond just our main careers. Starting from making our own wine, we are expanding to related fields, such as home decorations and hospitality to showcase our maker spirit and to promote a sustainable lifestyle.

As also winemakers and sommeliers, we go through lots of wine corks and it pains us to see so many natural wine corks being thrown into trash cans. We have always wanted to give these natural corks a second life to convert them into elegant and sturdy products.

Why is it important to recycle corks?

There’s a common misperception that making natural cork stoppers is harmful to the environment, similar to making whole log furniture which involves destroying natural forests. However, cork harvesting is done by stripping the bark by hand, rather than cutting trees down. The layer of the bark will slowly regenerate over time, and just as shearing sheep’s wool is sustainable, this harvesting process is actually good for the sustainability of the cork forests.

Cork forests are one of the most long-lasting forests in the world — most trees can live up to 300 years. They also hold extremely high levels of biodiversity supporting endemic plants and endangered species, such as the Iberian lynx. So keeping a healthy metabolism for the cork forests is vital to the earth’s ecosystem.

We don’t really have a cork shortage in the world. In fact, each year 13 billion natural corks are made and we have enough cork reserves for the next 100 years. But by recycling cork, we can help promote the use of natural cork to replace the increasing use of unsustainable materials such as plastics. Studies show that, concerning the emission of greenhouse gases, each plastic stopper released 10x more CO2, whilst an aluminum screw cap releases 26x more CO2 than does a cork stopper.

Where did 996Makers get the corks from?

Most of the restaurants and wine bars we spoke to didn’t have the practice to separate corks from the rest of the waste. It wasn’t easy to change their mindset, as it can easily be seen as a management overhead and an extra employee training burden.

Fortunately, we were able to identify these pioneer partners — some of the best wineries, wine bars, restaurants and hotels in the San Francisco Bay Area, such as St Supéry, Press Club SF, State Bird Provisions / The Progress, Fig & Thistle / Fig & Thistle Market, Cala Restaurant, and Four Seasons Hotel Palo Alto — and work closely with them to send the message of sustainability and social responsibility across to their staff members to get them on board.

How is 996Makers actually recycling the used corks?

Can’t we just plug a used cork back into a new bottle? Well, it’s actually neither hygienic nor good for the aging and storage of wine, so we need to be creative here and convert these corks into something cool, artistic, and useful in real life. That’s why we grounded and reshaped these corks into dining table placemats and coasters.

No two coasters or placemats are the same. Each one is made from a different set of corks, making them absolutely unique and creative. On the function side, these cork products are water-resistant and insulate against heat, providing the ideal protection for desks and tables. Not to mention the 100% recycled, natural, sustainable, and eco-friendly side, which tells an even greater story beyond the look and the functions.

Right now they are only available on 996makers.com, but we are in talks with retail stores and hospitality venues — stay tuned ;)

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