The environmental benefits of natural cork stoppers over alternative wine closures have been highlighted in an independent life cycle analysis released by Corticeira Amorim.
Corticeira Amorim, the world’s leading producer of stoppers for the wine industry, commissioned the PricewaterhouseCoopers study that shows the carbon dioxide emissions associated with cork closures are significantly lower than the emissions due to aluminium screwcaps and plastic stoppers.
The year-long study found that CO2 emissions — a key factor in global warming — resulting from the life cycle of a screwcap are 24 times higher than those from a natural cork stopper, while a plastic stopper is responsible for 10 times more CO2 than a natural cork.
“Corticeira Amorim commissioned an environmental impact assessment on the main products we manufacture, including natural cork wine stoppers,” said Chairman & CEO António Amorim.
“Our objectives were to identify opportunities to improve the environmental performance of cork stoppers and provide the wine industry with detailed figures in relation to the full environmental impact of different closures.
“Now, after an external critical review, we are able to publish the results of this study and the research clearly shows that natural cork is the best wine closure in terms of environmental performance.”
The study found that CO2 emissions during the life cycle (production, transport, associated packaging and end of life) of 1000 cork stoppers amounts to 1,533g of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) over 100 years, while the figure for plastic stoppers is 14,833g of CO2e per 1000 stoppers and for screwcaps 37,172g of CO2e per 1000 stoppers.
The figure for both cork and plastic stoppers includes allowance for transport to the UK market as well as the use of a PVC capsule that typically covers the top of a bottle sealed with such closures.
The study included analyses of seven key environmental indicators: the emission of greenhouse gases; consumption of non-renewable energy; consumption of water; contribution to the acidification of the atmosphere; contribution to the deterioration of the ozone layer; contribution to eutrophication; and, production of solid waste.
Cork stoppers emerged as the best alternative against six indicators and were placed second, behind aluminium closures, in relation to water consumption.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers study underwent a critical review by three independent entities, including a life cycle analysis expert, and was conducted in line with ISO 14040 and 14044 standards. Under these standards, the least favourable scenario for the promoter of the study (Corticeira Amorim) was taken at all times. In addition, the analysis did not consider the environmental impacts associated with the process of transforming aluminium into screwcaps and raw materials into plastic stoppers.
In 2006 and 2007 Corticeira Amorim prepared sustainability reports that highlighted the crucial role of cork forests in carbon dioxide retention, preserving biodiversity and combating desertification as well as the role of cork manufacturing in sustainable development.
Mr Amorim said commissioning the life cycle analysis added to the company’s strong knowledge-base on sustainability issues relating to its products.
“Many sectors of the global wine industry are working hard to reduce their environmental impact and this study again highlights the role that natural cork can play in that process,” he said.
“Natural cork is the only closure option for winemakers, distributors and retailers that want to minimise their carbon footprint and adopt best practices in relation to environmental performance. We are their natural CO2-retention partner in these efforts.”
The full 2008 PricewaterhouseCoopers life cycle analysis report and a summary presentation are available at www.corkfacts.com