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Recycled Matter

Published:  18 January, 2007

From earrings to worry-cusions, there's lots that can be done with the paraphernalia of wine.

The news that Amorim, the Portuguese cork manufacturer, is ambitious to get corks recycled will hardly excite the Australians who were, as in so many things vinous, there first.

The insect-repellent Aussie bush hat, with its dangling corks (an iconic image except in the Clare Valley where screwcaps reign) proves that it is possible to recycle everything related to wine (including wine writers).

In my previous household, the bottles went to the bottle bank, the cardboard to the paper bank, the polystyrene was collected fortnightly by a local flower seller for floral displays, and the corks went to the local infants school which used them to inspire pupils to construct model log cabins and small rafts. The corks were also metamorphosed, by older pupils, into table mats, kitchen heat mats and hanging curtains (of the kind one sees in Middle-East emporia).

None of these ideas compare, however, with the cork earrings worn by Fiona Barlow of Bottle Green. Mrs Barlow was, and probably still is, as far as I know, the only MW to employ her talents in any environmentally creative way and her dangly jewellery was a splendid addition to the female lobe which, to this columnist at least, has long been an area of fascination.

Perhaps Amorim might steal this idea and begin a new industry for the stricken peasants of Portugal to keep the wolf (not to mention the feral pig and the Iberian eagle) from the door.

When I was writing my Guardian column we even had a competition to find the best recycled use of the bladders of three-litre wine boxes. It was won by an enterprising therapist who used them as giant worry beads in her group sessions. The bladders were carefully washed and re-inflated and attendees had something to cuddle: a worry cushion, you might say.

The runners-up also had original ideas for recycling bladders, but none was, it seemed to the competition's judge (me), as socially valuable as the winner who won five years' supply of full wine boxes donated by Angela Mount when she was at Somerfield. I cannot imagine that approaching the people who now run this store would elicit so sympathetic a response. Further proof, if any were needed, that the world only gets worse.

Malcolm Gluck, former wine columnist of The Guardian and best-selling author of the Superplonk titles, is a freelance writer.