2 Feb 2023
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You can search high and low, but there isn’t another raw material quite like cork. Lightweight, fire-resistant, and biodegradable, its list of attributes is admirable. And long. In fact, the deeper you dive into its use cases and storied history, the more intriguing it becomes. Given our collective push toward green building practices, it’s only natural that cork becomes more ingrained in how we move toward the future.

The properties of cork materials have made them suitable for many industries and applications. But what about the uses of cork that surprise, inspire and land outside the square? Here are five innovative uses for cork that are sure to impress.

 

Everyday uses of cork

For as long as we’ve been wearing sandals and drinking wine, cork has been a part of our lives. In modern times, cork materials have found a home in various everyday applications. The uses of cork that most will be familiar with are:

Bottle stoppers 

Hands down, the first thing you think of when someone says cork. Its impermeability to gas and liquids makes it perfect for preserving the life of things like wine and premium alcohol.

Footwear

Birkenstock sandals are the most recognisable example of footwear made with cork materials. As a natural material, it offers support and breathability for our feet.

Birkenstock sandal seen on a white background

Interior design 

Cork’s ability to insulate, as well as being fire and rot-resistant, make it an exceptional material to use in buildings. From floors to ceilings, walls, and even facades, the use of cork in interiors is becoming more and more popular with architects and interior designers.

Space with stone floors in living room designed with table chairs and sofa

Creative uses of cork materials

What else can cork be made into? These five examples show how innovation and imagination can unlock even more uses for cork:

Aerospace

For most of us, the use of cork in the construction of spacecrafts seems far-fetched. Nothing could be further from the truth. Given its incredible insulation properties, cork is perfect for the critical components of a space shuttle, such as under the rocket boosters. NASA has long known this, using cork in their shuttles since the Apollo XI mission that first landed men on the moon.

Car interiors

It’s not just modern home interiors that are getting the cork treatment. Mazda’s MX-30 is a 100% electric vehicle that incorporates cork in its innovative design. Driven by their effort to reduce Mazda’s environmental footprint, cork was the obvious choice as a natural and biodegradable raw material.

 

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A post shared by Mazda Australia (@mazdaaus)

 

Cork handbags

The fashion industry has more recently come under scrutiny for the waste it produces. Mainly through unsustainable practices and our collective acceptance of the fast fashion mentality. With more brands moving toward leather alternatives, cork materials have become a brilliant option for handbags and shoes.

Person holding an opened cork bag

Railway tracks

This use of cork is similar to the aerospace application, albeit on a smaller, less intense scale. Again, the insulation, the ability to absorb impact and vibration, and the resistance to corrosion make cork materials ideal for use in rail pads and baseplates. Their inclusion helps to reduce noise and friction, prolonging the life of railway tracks.

Sporting fields

As the world of sports grows and fans demand bigger, better stadiums, it’s critical to consider the environmental impact of such demands. Because it’s contamination-free and requires less maintenance, cork is one brilliant solution to the issue of pitch sustainability.

Surfboards

At first glance, this is an unlikely use case for cork materials. Until you understand the context. The surfing industry is constantly looking for more sustainable materials to use in board manufacturing, given how toxic most current materials are. Cork’s sustainability, coupled with its tremendous strength, flexibility, and ability to absorb impact, and you have the ideal material for widespread use in surfboards.

Museum displays

The Bridge Collection Museum, situated within the World of Wine in Porto, Portugal, beautifully integrates cork into its exhibit design with unique cork display cases. This deliberate material choice does more than just showcase displays; it weaves a deeper narrative by connecting the exhibition to the rich history and story behind the wine collection.

Museum display of wine surrounding cork build

Embrace the possibilities of cork

If this article has given you a burst of inspiration to use cork in your next project, get in touch with the team at Market Timbers, and together, let’s create something unique!

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