Cork grows on trees in Mediterranean climates such as Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France. Cork trees are grown with zero inputs: no pesticides, no watering, and no need for pruning. In Portugal, which is the number one country for cork production, cork harvesting is very regulated by the government. Trees are not harvested until the age of 25, and then only every 9 years (by law). After harvest, trees remain alive, and usually stay in place for another 170 years or more. Trees are harvested by stripping the outer layer of the skin with a small ax by trained workers who pay a good salary. It does not hurt the tree in any way.
Cork is then taken to factories where it is drawn, boiled, and turned into corks or other cork products. The amazing thing about these factories is that up to 90% of the energy used to process the cork is made from dust-burning bubbles, a byproduct of production. Of the cork that is pulled out of the tree, nothing is going to waste. And for those who might think there are not enough cork trees to turn around, there are. Contrary to the belief of some, the demand for cork does not exceed the cork reserves available in the Mediterranean region.