Could Cork Be the Future of Sustainable Furniture?

Cork oak bark has long been used to create wine bottle corks - but could there be more uses?

A Portuguese startup has developed a modular cork system that can be used to assemble beds, shelves and other pieces of furniture. 

Author Felix Dunkl:

Translation Felix Dunkl, 01.23.19

For more than 400 years, cork obtained from the bark of cork oaks has been primarily used as a material for bottling wine. Cork is elastic, dense and also slightly permeable to air. This completely natural material is therefore ideal, not only for closing champagne and wine bottles, but also for making floor coverings, purses and shoes.

The Portuguese startup Corkbrick has now developed a modular system made of the material. Similar to Lego bricks, different modular forms can be slotted into each other to create shapes and structures. There are a total of seven different building blocks, all made entirely of recyclable cork, which can be assembled in an almost endless number of configurations. This means that partitions, beds or seating can be put together without the need for any extra materials.

Together with his daughter, a budding architect, entrepreneur Miguel Reynolds Brandao developed the cork system while the pair were trying to come up with a flexible and environmentally-friendly interior design concept. It didn’t take long for them to settle on cork as the material of choice. While, traditionally, trees are normally felled for the production of furniture, to produce cork, only the bark is needed, which grows back in a cycle of around ten years. As a rule, cork oaks have a service life of about 250 years, so each tree can be used about 25 times for material extraction. Since the material is only extracted from the trunk, no serious damage is caused to the trees.

So far, the duo have raised 150,000 euros, via crowdfunding, for the implementation of their idea. This support came from 29 countries and they were able to implement their cork building blocks within a very short time, meaning customers all over the world can now construct their own cork interiors.

This is a translation by Mark Newton of an original article which first appeared on RESET’s German-language site.

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