Natural cork has been used by humans for thousands of years. In fact, as far back as 5,000 years ago, we started using cork to seal bottles and other containers.
Cork has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and we also know that the Greeks, Romans and Babylonians used it for many different purposes. Taking advantage of the physical properties of cork (buoyancy, water resistance, high abrasion resistance), they manufactured sandals, fishing nets & tackle and flotation devices, and even used it as a building and flooring material for their homes.
In 1209, the Portuguese established the first known agrarian laws to protect their cork oak forests. To this day, the trees are protected — you can’t cut one down or cut off any of its bark without a special permit. These strict laws have paid off as Portugal enjoys thousands of miles of cork oak tree forests that currently expand at a rate of 4% per year. If consumption stays the same, the supply of cork is expected to remain sufficient for at least another 100 years.
Back in 1688 French monk Dom Perignon combined cork with wire to close his bottles of champagne, benefiting from the material’s flexibility, durability and water-resisting properties. Fast forward to 1892 and the American, William Painter, invented the cork-lined bottle cap, which was mass-produced until it was eventually replaced in 1955 by a plastic stopper.
Throughout modern history, innovation has led to new ways to leverage cork. For example, the medical community now uses it as a temporary skin covering for those who have suffered from extreme burns, while others have produced biodegradable phone cases from it.