Is Cork Leather Eco-Friendly?
Cork leather is made from the bark of cork oaks, using hand harvesting techniques which date back centuries. The bark can only be harvested once in every nine years, a process which is actually beneficial to the tree and which extends its lifespan. The processing of cork only requires water, no toxic chemicals and consequently no pollution. Cork forests absorb 14.7 tons of CO2 per hectare and provide habitat for thousands of species of rare and endangered species. The cork forests of Portugal host the greatest plant diversity found anywhere in the world. The cork industry is good for humans too, providing around a 100,000 healthy and financially rewarding jobs for people around the Mediterranean.
Is Cork Leather Biodegradable?
Cork Leather is an organic material and as long as it is backed with an organic material, such as cotton, it will biodegrade at the speed of other organic materials, such as wood. By contrast, vegan leathers which are fossil fuel based can take up to 500 years to biodegrade.
How is Cork Leather Made?
Cork leather is a processing variation of cork production. Cork is the bark of the Cork Oak and has been harvested for at least 5,000 years from the trees which grow naturally in the Mediterranean area of Europe and Northwest Africa. The bark from a cork tree can be harvested once every nine years, the bark is hand cut in large sheets, by expert ‘extractors’ using traditional cutting methods to ensure that the tree is unharmed. The cork is then air dried for six months, then steamed and boiled, which gives it its characteristic elasticity, and the cork blocks are then cut into thin sheets. A backing fabric, ideally cotton, is attached to the cork sheets. This process does not require the use of glue because cork contains suberin, which acts as a natural adhesive. The cork leather can be cut and sewn to create articles traditionally made from leather.
How is Cork Leather Dyed?
Despite its water-resistant qualities, cork leather can be dyed, prior to the application of its backing, by full immersion in dye. Ideally the producer will use a vegetable dye and organic backing in order to produce an entirely eco-friendly product.
How Durable is Cork Leather?
Fifty per cent of the volume of cork is air and one might reasonably expect that this would result in a fragile fabric, but cork leather is surprisingly strong and durable. Manufactures claim that their cork leather products will last a lifetime, though these products have not yet been on the market long enough to put this claim to the test. The durability of a cork leather product will depend on the nature of the product and the use to which it is put. Cork leather is elastic and resistant to abrasion, so a cork leather wallet is likely to be very durable. A cork leather backpack used to carry heavy objects, is unlikely to last as long as its leather equivalent.