Is Cork Biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: September 3, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Every company now vows to produce more eco-friendly products. 

Products like cork shoes, yoga, and flooring mats have become popular over the last few years.

So, is cork biodegradable? The answer is yes. Cork stands out as a biodegradable product if you compare cork with other products like plastic, metal, and paper.

Here’s everything you need to know about the biodegradable nature of cork:

What is Cork?

Cork is a natural material that comes from the bark of trees in the oak and Cork variety. 

You can find cork used in shoes, flooring, walls, lighting fixtures, and more.

Since cork is non-toxic, they are a perfect choice for many different products. 

When you compare them to other materials like metal or plastic, you will notice a big difference.

What is Cork Made of?

The cork product is made from the bark of Cork Oak. It has a solid outer layer treated with chemicals and vacuum-packed to make it smooth and water-resistant. 

The bark also has a soft spongy layer that is covered in pores.

How Biodegradable is Cork?

Cork is one of the most biodegradable materials you will find. 

Thanks to its soft inner layer that breaks down more quickly and efficiently. 

When you toss away cork products, they start to biodegrade naturally.

However, most cork products can withstand weather, water, mud, and even salt. 

They will not melt or disintegrate near a normal fire.

Most cork shoes have Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) to make the product more durable for regular use. 

Unfortunately, such products may take a longer time to degrade fully.

Is Cork Biodegradable?

Yes, cork is biodegradable. Since cork is a natural product, it harbors microbes just like other organic matter (including soil and compost).

If cork gets disposed of properly and in the right conditions, it can break down quickly. 

The critical element to this process is oxygen.

So, when you have cork products, make sure that it is exposed to air and moisture.

It’s also 100% recyclable. 

This means that you can use it over and over again without causing any harm to the environment.

As such, the recycling process of cork is pretty easy.

What Makes Cork Biodegradable?

Well, cork has inner parts/layers which are soft and porous, making it biodegradable in nature.

But, how do cork biodegrade?

Once the cork is thrown away, UV rays from sunlight, oxygen, and moisture help break down chemicals like tannins into smaller particles.

This separates the outer layer of the cork and the inner core. 

As a result, it gets exposed, elements such as moisture, bacteria, and other microbes attack the material, breaking it down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20).

How Long Does Cork Take To Biodegrade?

Most cork flooring products can take 3 to 10 years to biodegrade after being tossed away entirely. 

The same is the case with cork products such as furniture and other household items.

That’s because cork has a hard outer layer resistant to mold, fungus, water damage, etc. 

Hence, it’ll take much longer time to decompose, mainly if it gets disposed of improperly.

So, make sure you dispose of cork products in the right conditions to allow faster degradation.

Are Cork Products Environmentally Friendly?

Yes, most are eco-friendly since they produce no toxic waste and take a relatively shorter time to biodegrade. 

Plus, they are also 100% recyclable and don’t add any pollutants to the environment.

Note that cork trees thrive in rainforests where there is abundant sunlight and water for growth. 

The tree needs both these elements to produce corks. So, you can say that cork products are completely biodegradable as well as eco-friendly.

Does cork has any benefit to the environment?

The answer is yes. When cork biodegrades, the environment benefits in several ways. Some of them include:

1. Its natural properties help in preventing soil erosion. In fact, it helps plants grow by trapping water and nutrients.

2. Cork is a good source of food for birds, insects, and animals.

3. The use of cork helps in increasing the oxygen content in the air.

4. It also helps in CO2 recycling, which is a huge part of preventing global warming. As such, it can help in providing a better environment to live in.

5. Decomposing cork can help save you time and money on other alternatives like protecting the soil using plastic or concrete.

Is cork sustainable?

Yes! Cork is a natural renewable material. 

This effectively makes it an eco-friendly resource. Similarly, cork is incredibly sustainable.

When you take away the bark from a tree, the plant will grow and produce another layer of cork in its lifetime.

The harvesting process of cork can occur continuously over many years without damaging the tree.

Besides, it doesn’t cause any negative impacts on the environment either. To produce cork, you don’t need to use harsh chemicals or toxic materials that can damage the environment.

However, make sure that you recycle your old products and keep them out of landfills where they cannot decompose properly.

What Products are Made of Cork?

The uses of cork are just huge as this material is:

  • soft
  • mild
  • waterproof

This makes it suitable for a variety of products, including:

  • kitchen accessories
  • footwear
  • thermal insulation materials
  • roof
  • different mats, etc.

In short, you can find many different types of cork products too: ranging from floor tiles to school stationery items like clips, notebooks, binders, to name a few.

Does Cork Affect the Surrounding Ecosystems?

No, cork trees produce oxygen which helps to reduce the impact of climate change. 

Moreover, it also produces several substances like carbon dioxide and water that can prevent people from getting heat strokes.

Cork trees don’t require any maintenance or special treatment once they’re cut from the ground.

So, instead of harming the environment, cork trees can improve it.

Can Other Materials Replace cork Products?

The answer is no. Why? Well, it depends on the properties cork products have.

Generally, cork products are not easily replaceable with other substances.

That’s because cork has a lot of unique characteristics that other materials do not have.

For instance:

  • Cork is eco-friendly and biodegradable than materials like plastic or metal
  • It can resist mold, water, and fungus accumulation.
  • Cork is highly lightweight than even wood hence easy to transport.
  • It’s also water-resistant, and it will not grow mold like other substances.
  • It also has superior resistance against heat as well as temperature changes.


Cork is a beautiful, renewable resource. It’s naturally grown and eco-friendly too. 

Many cork products help us protect the environment and make our living conditions better.

It is readily biodegradable and natural; hence will not affect the surrounding ecosystem negatively. 

So, it’ll even play a positive role in the process of preventing environmental destruction.

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