Circular economies grow from the ground up, starting with recognizing that a material used to make a product can be recaptured, reused, resold, and recycled to lower the cost of sourcing raw materials. Mike Baker saw the opportunity to recycle cork for use in the custom insoles and footwear his company, SOLE, makes and launched the ReCORK collection network more than 15 years ago. Since founding in 2008 as a second business of the custom orthopedic insole company SOLE, ReCORK has recycled an astonishing 132 million wine corks and planted over 8,000 cork trees. These milestones are part of SOLE’s broader mission to reduce environmental impact and promote sustainable practices. ReCORK recently contributed an Earth911 article, Recycle Cork To Replace Petroleum-Based Polymers and Foams, about its program.

Mike Baker, Founder and CEO of custom insole maker SOLE and the ReCORK recycling network, is our guest on Sustainability In Your Ear.

Too often, we hear that one side of the equation — the manufacturer or the consumer — is solely responsible for recycling. It is a partnership that cannot succeed if the first step, putting the material back into the system for recycling, is not taken at home or the office. ReCORK found a way to make that first step more accessible for consumers and businesses by placing collection bins in bars, liquor stores, and consumers. Mike explains how collection must be followed up with by careful material management, including designing it to be easily deconstructed for processing into a reusable feedstock for the next round of products. And the story of the journey of a cork or a PC or an aluminum can is essential to be transparently shared with the public so that people learn they can recycle with confidence — it takes time, which is always in short supply; therefore, it’s critical to let every participant in the circular economy know their efforts were worthwhile. You can learn more about  ReCORK at, and to check out SOLE, visit

Then, take some time to learn more about the sustainable fashion and footwear:

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