Home, Home and Garden

Cork Vs. Screw Tops – Which is Best When it Comes to Wine?

cork good for environment

 Have you ever wondered which stopper is best when it comes to wine? Cork or screw top? Read on and find out!

I’ll admit – I like wine.  Sauvignon blanc, Prosecco, Malbec, and Merlot are my tipples of choice.  Come Friday night, after the baby is in bed, you’ll more often than not find me with a well-deserved glass of wine in my hand. I’ve even got a guide to ethical wine right here.

Over the past few years, plastic stoppers and screw-top wine bottles have infiltrated the wine market.  At first, when screw tops started appearing I thought “how convenient” – no more searching for a bottle opener, and no more corked wine.  However lately I’ve started to wonder “is cork eco friendly”, or are their screw-top equivalents more environmentally friendly?

Surely a Screw Top Is Best?

My initial thought was surely yes, screw tops are more environmentally friendly. Especially as trees have to be cut down to extract the cork, whereas metal can be recycled.  

Then I started looking into it, and as it turns out I was completely wrong.  What I found was that cork is eco-friendly as cork is one of the most sustainable materials in the world.  Meanwhile, the dominance of screw tops on wine bottles is actually threatening ancient Mediterranean cork oak forests.  Screw tops and plastic stoppers also contribute to widespread environmental destruction.

What’s So Sustainable About Cork?

Across Portugal, Southern France, Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Turkey are swathes of ancient cork oak forest.  These forests are home to endangered and rare species.  These include the Short-Toed Eagle, the Egyptian Mongoose, the Barbary deer, and the Iberian Lynx.  These cork oak forests are also home to biologically important flora and fungi.  And what’s more, the presence of the forest also prevents the soil from drying out and turning into a dust bowl.

You may be wondering how is cork eco-friendly if this is the case?  Well, to extract the cork you may be surprised to hear that not one single tree is cut down.  Instead, the bark of the cork oak trees is peeled away.  The cork is then carefully extracted manually by very highly skilled harvesters.  The trees are in no way damaged and the cork forest in Portugal alone absorbs around 10 million tons of CO2 each year.

Cork is naturally renewable and grows back after nine years.  This system preserves the forest in its pristine entirety.  It also enables perpetual harvesting with no damage to the forest or ecosystem.

natural cork harvest

This ability to renew itself is not the only superpower that cork possesses. Cork is also completely biodegradable.  And from a social point of view cork extraction from oak is also a highly skilled job, in rural areas where jobs are hard to come by.  This skilled work pays very well and helps to support viable rural communities.

The Screw Top Problem

With the widespread infiltration of screw-top wine bottles, the lack of demand for cork means the oak forests are losing their value.  A loss in value means the forests are more likely to be exploited in unsustainable ways.  This threatens the habitat of vulnerable species, threatens livelihoods and threatens the viability of rural communities, and brings the risk of areas turning into dustbowls.  Removal of trees also impacts the ground – meaning flooding is more likely.  So cork is definitely the way forward.

I mentioned I initially thought aluminium screw tops were easily recycled. In fact, it turns out screw tops are not widely recyclable.  More often than not they are too small to be easily recycled. Meanwhile, the plastic stoppers are not recyclable.  On top of this, mining for bauxite (the ore from which aluminium is produced) is one of the most damaging practices on earth.  As such, the increased use of screw tops contributes to this destructive practice.

The plastic seal on the inside of the screw top and the plastic stopper can leach chemicals into the wine, causing taint.  It can also be damaging to human health, which isn’t too great either.

What Can You Do?

What can you do?  Well, the good news is it’s not difficult to help. Just always try and buy wine with a cork in it!  For me, it’s a good excuse to drink Prosecco as generally it is always stoppered with a natural cork!  So you can sit there, with a nice glass of sparkling wine, knowing that you are helping to preserve the forest. And at the same time saving the habitat of the lynx, mongoose, eagle, and host of animals, as well as providing precious jobs in rural areas.

If you’re not buying Prosecco or Champagne It can be difficult to tell if wine is stoppered with natural cork due to the foil covering.  If in doubt shop at a quality wine merchant and ask.  The staff in these places are very knowledgeable about wine and will be able to direct you to natural cork stoppered wines.  100% Cork also has a handy list of wineries that support natural cork stoppers.  You can also look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Certification) symbol on wine labels.   There’s also a 100% Cork Facebook page which you can join to show your support.

My Wine Might Be Corked

If you’re worried about your wine being corked due the use of a natural stopper, then read on. The primary cause of cork taint is the presence of the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). TCA isn’t just found in cork. It’s also found naturally in wood, water, soil, fruit and vegetables. This means that myriad other factors, including the storage of wine in wooden barrels, can contribute to wine spoilage.

Over the last 20 years, wine producers have invested in new equipment and worked to refine production techniques. This has contributed to a sharp decline in tainted wine. Recent tests by the Cork Quality Council show a 95% reduction in TCA detection tests.

It’s also important to note that the move to plastic and screw-top bottles was not to prevent corkage.  It was actually for financial reasons.  Screw-tops are cheaper to produce than paying highly skilled harvesters to source cork.  So fear not about your precious wine!

Let’s all raise a glass to this sustainability superhero!

Home, Home and Garden

How to Stop Junk Mail In The UK

how to stop junk mail uk

Sick of unsolicited catalogues and letters? Find out how to stop junk mail in the UK with my handy guide.

Junk mail is one of my biggest bugbears. Lately, I’ve taken it on as my own personal mission to stop as much junk mail as possible coming into my house. As such, I’ve found the best places to sign up to stop junk mail. Before we dive in, first, let me warn you, the direct marketing field is a huge money-making machine. Royal Mail wouldn’t even stop delivering junk mail during the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, organisations make it as difficult as possible for you to opt out. Don’t let it deter you though, I’ve got six handy ways to stop as much junk mail as possible.

how to stop junk mail uk

How to Stop UK Junk Mail

 I’ve been doing a ton of research to find out how to stop this barrage of unwanted mail. What can you do to stop junk mail in the UK? Here are my six top tips:

Opt Out of Junk Mail Online

If you are receiving unwanted mail from a company that you have shopped with in the past, or registered with at some point then you can usually take action. Simply log in to their website, and find the section that allows you to update your communication preferences. You should, in theory, be able to opt-out of direct mailings. Instead, you can switch to email only, or opt-out of all communications. Do note that some companies can take up to 12 weeks for these changes to come into place.

Return Unwanted Mail

If you are unable to opt-out of junk mail online, then you can return your unwanted mail. We get so much unwanted mail from H&M. As well as the shop being terrible for the environment, if you buy something online they will automatically put your name on their catalogue distribution list. They will then send you what seems like at least one catalogue a fortnight.  My partner also found himself on that same H&M mailing list, so it came to be that we were receiving two copies of the same catalogue every fortnight.  We seemed unable to stop junk mail from them on their website.

If you are in a similar predicament with direct mailings from a retailer, you can return any personally addressed junk mail to the sender.  Just cross through your address, and add a note to the envelope asking to be removed from their mailing list. Then put it in the post box.  You don’t need to add a stamp – I never do.  Most companies get the message quite quickly and you won’t receive any more unsolicited mail.

Others, like H&M, are a bit slower on the uptake. It took about 3 months of me returning every brochure that was sent to us before they took us off of their list.

Sign Up For The Mail Preference Service

Next on your checklist for stopping junk mail is to sign up for the Mail Preference Service.  This is a free service that you can use to get your name and address removed from lists used by companies to market their products.  This means you should receive no junk mail addressed to you personally from companies that use lists to send out direct marketing materials.

However, signing up to the Mail Preference Service does not stop mail addressed “to the householder” or “to the occupier”. Nor does it stop unaddressed junk mail from being delivered, nor junk mail originating from abroad.

Sign Up for the Fundraising Preference Service

Are you feeling overwhelmed by unwanted marketing contact from a charity? If the charity in question is registered in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland then you can sign up for the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS). After signing up, it takes around 21 days to stop receiving communications from the charity.

The FPS does not apply to charities registered in Scotland. This is because Scottish charities fall under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel (SFSP). If you are receiving a high volume of unwanted mail from a Scottish charity then you can go through the SFSP complaints process to stop this mail.

Use A No Junk Mail Sticker

The next step you can do is to put a “no junk mail”, or “no circulars” sticker or sign on your letterbox.  This will help remind people, such as local fast food shops, not to put circulars through your letterbox. You can find no junk mail stickers on Etsy* from around £2.

Note, that the use of a no junk mail sticker won’t stop the delivery of free newspapers. You’ll have to add a “no free newspapers” sign on your letterbox as well. I know, it’s ridiculous.

Opt-Out of Junk Mail With Royal Mail

A no junk mail sticker will not stop the postman from putting junk mail through your letterbox.  This is because postmen are contractually obligated to give you any junk mail that companies have paid Royal Mail to deliver.  

To stop the postman from delivering junk mail to you, you have to opt-out via the Royal Mail website.  I’ve found that Royal Mail makes this unnecessarily difficult because Royal Mail gets paid to deliver junk mail, so it’s not in their best interests.  You have to download a form, which you then have to fill in send it back to them via the mail. Not email, because you know, it’s not 2021!

It’s certainly less long-winded than it used to be. However, it’s important to bear in mind that this process lets you opt out of junk mail for two years only. After two years, you then have to re-contact Royal Mail and go through the whole rigmarole again.  

Final Thoughts

You probably won’t manage to stop every piece of junk mail from coming into your home. However, following these five steps should hopefully significantly reduce the amount of junk landing on your doormat.

Have I missed anything on how to stop junk mail?  Let me know in the comments below!