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Up to 125 million used tennis balls can pile up in American landfills every year. This does not happen because tennis players don't care about recycling (they do), but because there are factors working against recycling. The general public, and most tennis players, are unaware that the number of discarded tennis balls is astronomical. It is estimated that an average of 2 hundred tennis balls are discarded monthly per park. It takes a tennis ball an estimated 450 years to decompose. The problem is worsened because tennis players don’t have a convenient way or place to contribute used tennis balls for recycling. They can be tossed in with your regular recycling. Tennis balls require a specific technique to separate the material.
There is finally a national movement to make tennis ball recycling happen. Currently there are two organizations taking donated balls for recycling: Project Green Ball, a non-profit organization that facilitates recycling, and reBounces, a company that reuses and/or recycles tennis balls. reBounces offers free shipping; no costs (other than a box) will be incurred for sending balls off to be recycled. Courtside disposal has been the most successful way to accumulate balls. Retour has designed a container that hangs directly on tennis court fencing so players have immediate access to a recycling. AD-IN Bin.
Currently used tennis balls are being ground up to be included in alternative recreational surfaces – equestrian arena flooring, for example. Soon recycled tennis balls will be made into tennis courts!
Just like any other recycled product, supply will prompt demand. Once a steady supply of tennis balls is available, more inventive, successful uses will arise. All ‘players’ involved are working diligently to make recycling tennis balls a standard practice for players and communities, and finding ways to use the recycled material.
For more information about how to initiate a tennis ball recycling program in your community, visit Retour Tennis.