Could Cork Save the Beauty Industry's Carbon Footprint?
February 27, 2021
By Euny Wong;
When you think of a cork, if you do, you probably think of wine stoppers, or maybe dartboards. But cork jars and compacts? Those are new. They don't exactly glisten in a shelfie, but some sustainability experts are banking on cork to help shrink the beauty industry's carbon footprint — a Herculean task considering that, in 2018, almost 7.9 billion units of rigid plastic were created for beauty and personal-care products in the U.S.
Cork offers a renewable way forward: It is natural and biodegradable (it gets broken down by insects over several years). Cork is harvested from the cork oak tree (quercus suber) found in the western Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast, in seven countries (including Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and France). And cork can be cut from a layer of bark without harming trees. Much as a shorn sheep regrows wool, cork regenerates — though a lot slower (a 25-year-old cork oak tree can be responsibly stripped of its cork once every nine to 12 years).
The cork cell is about 90 percent air, making it light and insulating to the point of being virtually nonporous, which is why cork seals wine in bottles — and why it's capable of packaging serums without sucking up precious product or letting it leak.