Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sainsbury's Help To Save The Iberian Lynx

Sainsbury's pulls plug on plastic corks to protect endangered species

All of Sainsbury's own-brand wines will be sealed with corks certified by the Forest Stewardship Council by the end of 2010

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The corks popping from bottles of bubbly tonight will release more than a toast to the new year: a safer home for Europe's last big cat, the Iberian lynx, and other endangered animals.

To help the celebrations be more environmentally friendly in future, Sainsbury's has pledged that from 2010 all the corks used in its own-label drinks will be from guaranteed sustainable sources.

Its first champagnes and sparkling wines sealed with the cork – certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and sourced from the most sustainably farmed forests in the world – will be bottled next month. A full-scale switchover for the rest of the supermarket's 6m bottles of own-brand wine, champagne, and sparkling wines using the FSC-certified corks will be completed by the end of 2010.

The move is the largest yet by a single UK retailer. A spokesman for the Co-operative Group said it planned to introduce

FSC-certified corks in 2010 on about a third of its own-brand wines.

The use of FSC corks could reduce the threat of extinction of a number of endangered species living in forests such as the Mediterranean Cork Oak forests. These include the Iberian lynx, of which there are fewer than 100 remaining, and the Iberian imperial eagle, of which only 150 breeding pairs remain.

Cork oak trees are unique in their ability to regenerate after their bark has been harvested. This means that cork forests undergo fewer disturbances than conventional commercial forests, creating a unique and valuable eco-system. FSC certification is considered the best way to protect this environment for the long-term benefit of communities living and working in these regions, as well as the indigenous wildlife. In order to gain certification, cork producers have to ensure that they have minimal impact on biodiversity in the area, while also ensuring that harvesting practice is fully sustainable.

But while Sainsbury's move was welcomed by conservationists as a step in the right direction, it is a small step. Natural corks are used for about 80% of the 20bn bottles produced globally each year.

The growing popularity of plastic corks and screw caps has raised fears about the long-term future of cork oak forests. Sainsbury's wine maker, Barry Dick, said the type of closure used to seal bottles was based on quality, style and appellation laws which stipulate the type of closure that best suits each individual wine. Natural corks are important for certain types of wine – particularly for bold reds – because they allow oxygen to interact with wine for proper ageing, for example.

Dick commented: "Where we use cork, it is important to us to make sure that the harvesting of that cork makes a positive contribution to the wildlife in the area, while at the same time managing traceability, consistency and quality to ensure our wines taste their best."

Julia Young, Manager of WWF's Global Forest and Trade Network in the UK said: "The fragile cork oak forests are part of the unique natural heritage of the Mediterranean; a valuable and threatened forest region right on our doorstep. Leadership like this sets the bar for UK retailers as Sainsbury's achieve a first going into the New Year, and an iconic forest habitat faces a more secure future."

Charles Thwaites, executive director of FSC UK, added: "We tend to associate trees with everyday goods such as timber, paper and tissues. But supporting the cork industry so that cork-oak forests continue to thrive is vital to the local ecology, especially

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1 comment:

  1. Too many people believe this connection between the cork and the Iberian lynx. This link is fiction and it a manipulation of our environmental sensitivities by the cork industry and the company Amorim in particular.

    Please dont buy into the cork industry's greenwash!

    1) if you look at the maps of where the cork forrests are (mostly in portugal) and then look at the maps of the lynx' habitat, (mostly in spain) you see that they dont overlap

    2) The cork forrests are protected by portugese law, and the Lynx's habitat is also protected by law in portugal and spain. Choosing a synthetic cork or a screwcap as opposed to a bark cork in no way threatens either.

    3) Even if corks are abandoned for use in wine (and there are lots of reasons why they should be) AND the governments decide to allow cork oaks to be cut down. The expected replacement crop in those areas is other timber products for paper pulp etc. This would not remove woodland habitat from any species and would in fact be a better crop on a carbon basis.

    4) Keep in mind that these species are not endangered because we started finding alternatives for corks. They are endangered because the portugese and spanish have torn up the habitat to build houses, and introduced a virus to kill the nuisance of the rabbit population - which is the main prey of the lynx.

    You can feel free to open a bottle of wine with any closure you want: screwcap, plastic cork, or regular cork, and know that it makes NO impact on these species.

    Dont buy corporate greenwash.
    Do your research and make up your own mind.
    Drink more wine!