Recently my friend Don posted a request on Facebook, asking all of his neighborhood friends to save their wine corks. Turns out he was building a gift for his wife: A bulletin board made from an old picture frame, filled with about 500 corks arranged in a beautiful geometric pattern. It was the perfect gift for his wine-loving wife, and a lovely way to make use of corks, which, unlike the bottles, can’t just be thrown in the recycling bin.
Some organizations do recycle wine corks (Whole Foods Markets is a collection point for Cork ReHarvest, for instance); the corks are ground up and used to make other materials or products, such as shipping packages, fishing bobbers, flooring, and even footwear.
But if it’s not convenient for you to recycle your corks, don’t just throw them in the trash — there are plenty of other uses around the house for them! Here are 8:
- Make a trivet. Use a picture frame (remove the glass) or a large ceramic tile as a base, and hot-glue the corks to the base. You can cut each cork in half lengthwise so that you won’t need as many. Don likes to arrange the corks in pairs, alternating vertical and horizontal, to make a nice pattern. There are plenty of ideas and instructions online.
- Protect yourself from sharp tips. Poke sharp utensils, such as probe thermometers, corn holders, skewers, carving forks and other kitchen tools into corks. It’ll prevent you from pricking your finger when you’re rummaging around in a drawer for something. In the craft room, corks can be used to collect needles or pins, or for craft blades.
- Create a toy regatta for your kids. For a fun family craft project, glue three corks together to make a boat, and top it with a paper sail hung from a short wooden skewer or cocktail pick. Float it in the tub or in a creek.
- Protect your floors. Cut slices of cork and glue them to the underside of chair feet, big ceramic floor planters or tables. They’ll protect the floor if you need to push the furniture to move it. A thin sliver of cork can also help even out a wobbly table.
- Organize earrings. Push the backs of earrings up the post as far as they’ll go, then poke the end of the posts into a cork. It’ll keep your pairs of earrings together and easy to find, especially in your toiletries bag when traveling.
- Dampen a cabinet door. The experts at This Old House suggest gluing a thin slice of cork to the inside of a cabinet to keep the door from slamming noisily. I’m guessing you could also do this with a noisy screen door.
- Make a mini bulletin board. Unlike Don, you might not have 500 corks to make a full-sized bulletin board, but if you have just one, you can hot-glue it to the inside of a kitchen cabinet, stick a push pin in it, and use it to hold a recipe printout at eye level when you’re cooking.
- Garden with them. Wine corks can be composted, as long as you make sure that they’re actually made of natural cork, and you break them up first. Chopped up, they can also be used as a layer in the bottom of a planter, to help drainage.
How do you reuse wine corks? Share your ideas in the comments below!
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Every Monday, I'll be here to share one, two, three… sometimes even ten! eco-friendly ideas at a time, so we can all do a little bit to save the Earth.
When I'm not making lists, I'm taking care of my two daughters, volunteering in my community, and writing articles about food and cooking — I'm the author of three cookbooks: Ramen to the Rescue, Tortillas to the Rescue, and Quinoa Cuisine (co-written with Kelley Sparwasser), and my fourth, Homemade Condiments, will be available in Fall 2013.