Recork’s remarkable sustainability stats explained

Cork is an inherently natural, renewable raw material. So common sense tells us that flooring made almost entirely of cork will be good for the planet. But Recork’s credentials are based on more than just common sense. Let’s take a closer look at the remarkable carbon statistics achieved by Recork, as well as what these measurements really mean.

Recork carbon footprint = 0.68 kg CO2eq/1m2

Product life cycle assessments (LCA’s) reveal Recork has an exceptionally low carbon footprint of just 0.68 kg CO2eq/1m2. To put this in context even timber flooring, which is generally considered a sustainable option, tends to have a higher carbon footprint. And this is nothing compared to less environmentally friendly options, such as luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) and particularly carpets, where carbon footprints can be substantial. That’s why you won’t find too many companies publishing this data.

So Recork’s carbon footprint is incredibly low, but you may well be asking yourself why it is a positive figure. At this point we really need to explain the concept of carbon footprint, how it is measured, and how it relates to metrics such as carbon balance.

Carbon footprint is defined as the amount of greenhouse gases a product produces throughout its lifecycle, measured in units of carbon dioxide. With flooring products, the carbon footprint is usually measured from cradle-to-grave. This means it is measured from the very start of its life, the acquisition and processing of raw materials, through production, distribution, installation and use, to end-of-life processes such as incineration, landfill or recycling.

The life cycle analysis of Recork shows the vast majority of carbon dioxide emission is likely to occur at the end-of-life stage, where landfill and incineration are currently the assumed scenarios. As more effective end-of-life processes are developed in the next few years, Recork’s carbon footprint will reduce rapidly, and will quickly become negative.

What’s more, the carbon footprint doesn’t tell the whole story for Recork because it doesn’t factor in the carbon sequestered by the cork oaks themselves. This is where the concept of carbon balance comes in, helping us to understand the real story and measure what’s actually happening.

Recork carbon balance = Up to -186 kg CO2eq/m2

Recork’s carbon balance calculation factors in the carbon sequestered by the cork oak trees of the Montado. As the cork oak forests are cultivated to produce cork for products such as bottle stoppers, furniture and flooring, all the carbon absorbed by the trees can legitimately be included in the carbon balance analysis of cork products. With cork oaks absorbing up to five times as much carbon dioxide as other trees, and no trees felled during the harvesting process, that’s a lot of carbon sequestered. In fact the cork oaks of the Portuguese Montado alone capture over 4 million tonnes of carbon a year. Every plank of Recork flooring contains at least 85% cork. And with the only other materials consisting of a binder, some plant-based oil and a protective lacquer, there is very little else to factor into the calculation.

As a result Recork has an incredible carbon balance that reaches up to -186 kg CO2eq/m2. Yes, that really is a minus! It means every square metre of Recork flooring removes up to 186 kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during its lifetime. So, with the average house in the UK having around 68 square metres of living space, using Recork throughout your home could remove over 12,600 kg of carbon dioxide.

The result of Recork’s carbon footprint analysis is reason enough for celebration, given it is already virtually net zero. But if we dig deeper and use the measure of carbon balance to tell the full story, we can begin to understand just how special Recork flooring really is.

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