Oregon-based Willamette Valley Vineyards (WVV) has launched a cork recycling programme as part of its Cork Re-Harvest scheme.

WVV founder and president Jim Bernau said today (11 March) the new programme is needed to sustain the cork forests of Portugal, Spain, and other cork producing countries.

Part of its goal is to raise awareness of the need for sustainable development in the Mediterranean cork forests.

"The cork forests are second only to the Amazon Rainforest in their importance to the world's biosphere," Bernau said. "High quality natural cork is the best way to preserve wine quality."

The Cork Re-Harvest programme is a collaboration with WVV, Whole Foods Market, the Rainforest Alliance, WVV's Oregon and Washington distributors, and Western Pulp Products.

Recycling boxes will be placed in the 11 Whole Foods Market stores in the region and when distributors deliver wine to these stores, they will pick up the cork and return it to their warehouse. The cork will be transported to Western Pulp when WVV makes its current deliveries to the Corvallis warehouse.

Chris Gibbons, of the Rainforest Alliance, said that the wine industry plays a critical role in protecting cork oak forests on the Iberian Peninsula.

"The Rainforest Alliance applauds Willamette Valley Vineyards for being a sustainability leader in the Pacific Northwest," Gibbons said. "Not only are they sourcing their cork from FSC-certified cork forests, but they're taking the next step and establishing a cork recycling programme to help mitigate the use of virgin cork."