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07.14.2006

Uh oh. Screwcaps Will Ruin the Planet.

WWF_logo.jpgExcuse me if I seem dazed, but I'm still in shock after reading that the World Wildlife Fund has actually made a public statement suggesting that winemakers should continue to use cork stoppers, if only for the good of the planet. I hope that made you do a double-take, too. Apparently not only do screwcaps fight cork taint, they also cause forest fires, economic depression, and harm endangered species. You always suspected that, didn't you?

Actually, to be more precise, the WWF suggests that a thriving cork industry prevents such things, by offering jobs to the locals, well maintained forests that don't burn and which provide homes for many endangered species.

All I've got to say is, those cork industry lobbyists must be really damn good.

How they managed to get an environmental organization to come out in favor of an industry that is just one notch away from the old rubber plantations in terms of its impact on the land boggles my mind. OK, I'll admit to knowing very little about cork production, so perhaps it's not so environmentally damaging as I may think, but for Pete's sake, it's an industry. There are thousands of people tromping through these forests with machetes all day long -- you can't expect me to believe that they're tiptoeing around sleeping lynx, eagles, and deer!

What's got the WWF (and the cork industry itself) so agitated is a recent study suggesting that in 7 years, 95% of all the wines in the world will be closed with some sort of alternative closure. While I jump for joy at such news (but which I think is a horribly unrealistic projection), the wine industry apparently makes up 70% of the total demand for cork, which means that if these numbers are right, the industry will, indeed, collapse.

To suggest such a collapse would ultimately be worse for the environment than if the industry thrived seems mighty odd. But the WWF claims on their web site that at least the industry is sustainable, and if you look at the energy required and byproducts of the manufacture of synthetic stoppers, cork looks better for the environment in the long term.

Which I guess means that all those companies out there who are looking for solutions to eliminate TCA from corks are actually saving the planet !

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