When Guy Grenon heard there were a half million wine corks sitting at a recycler, he immediately knew he wanted at least some of them.
“Half a million brand new, discarded corks,” he said. The surplus was the end result of a Jackson Triggs switch to screw caps for several of their wine labels.
“What a waste,” he said. “I couldn’t help myself but take some. I filled my van.”
But he didn’t know what to do with them.
The corks are generally sent to Ontario to be recycled, he said. A fellow collector who heard about the treasure wasn’t interested because they are synthetic corks. Grenon jumped at the chance to salvage at least some of them, figuring he would be able to find a purpose for the corks himself. In total, Grenon left the recycler with 125,000 of the synthetic corks that day, the largest haul the cork collecting hobbyist has ever gathered. If it sounds like a lot of corks, it really is.
They came in clear recycling bags of 1,000, giving Grenon 125 bags in all.
Once he got them back home in Harrison Hot Springs, he began to think of all the possibilities. He had already been working with natural corks as a hobby. Grenon has been off work as a finishing carpenter for about four years, following an injury to his hand while on the job.
“I put a nail through my hand,” he said. “It has left me with chronic pain in my hand and kept me out of my trade.”
Working with corks, creating trivets, coasters and most recently artwork, seemed like a good way to keep his hands busy for short periods of time, while using his design skills. In Quebec, he worked as a specialty cabinet designer, or artisanal. He had considered making furniture with the cork, maybe even a boat, but it was when he was in Minter Country Gardens speaking with Brian Minter that another possibility began to take shape.
Minter mentioned the art department at the University of the Fraser Valley, and Grenon instantly knew that was the right place for the corks. Putting a large amount of material into the hands of creative people could result in something great, he said.
Arrangements were made, and last Monday, UFV arrived in Harrison to collect the donation — happily.
They took 100 bags of 1,000, leaving Grenon with a sizable amount to play with and think of his own creations. In his home, they sit beside barrels of other types of corks. Champagne, tequila and wine corks; granulated cork, caspulated corks, natural cork and more.
They each have different attributes, and they each deserve a second purpose in life, in Grenon’s eyes.
There are 30 billion bottles of wine consumed each year around the world. That’s a lot of cork — a very desirable product — getting thrown in the trash. To help cut down on unnecessary waste, Grenon has been collecting wine corks locally through numerous fine dining restaurants.
“My goal of sharing this story is to take advantage of the donation, to get people more aware of cork recycling,” he said.
Already, several local restaurants collect their own corks and accept their customers’ corks. Once a month, Grenon travels through Harrison and Chilliwack, picking up the donations from places like the Copper Room, Bravo and Frankie’s.
In turn, they become everything from trivets and coasters to larger pieces of art. Currently, he’s experimenting with rock and cork. The larger donation to UFV was graciously accepted by sculpture instructor Brenda Fredrick, and she has assured him they will also be put to good use.