How do you keep 20,000 pounds of tennis balls out of the landfill?
Answer: Start with one ball at a time.
We don’t usually think of polluting or creating waste in order to play tennis. We’re not burning gas. We’re not having to chop down trees or making global warming worse…. Or are we? Like just about everything we consume or produce we find ourselves using natural resources in order to manufacture tennis balls, racquets, shoes, and accessories. While this will always be part of the process, we can do a lot to make the resources we use go further. In this article, I will share what I have done to keep our tennis balls out of the landfill and bouncing two to three times longer. When they have bounced their last time they can be re-purposed into material used to manufacture cushioned tennis court surfaces.
Start by using the Green Machine https://rebounces.com. This device comes in four different sizes 32, 50, 150 and 400 ball capacities. What this air tight canister does is re-pressurize balls. Putting 60 pounds of pressure of Co2 gas (for regulation balls) into the Green Machine for three days returns the balls to their original pressure. The fuzz may be worn out and the color faded but the bounce is not, which leaves them fine for teaching and using in ball machines. This process can extend the life of your tennis balls by threefold.
Here’s my setup:
I use three containers (five-gallon lidded totes) with the following labels:
- “To be Rebounced” These balls are starting to lose their bounce and need to be restored.
- “ Rebounced” These balls have been in the Green Machine for 72 hours and can be returned to your basket or ball machine. Use a chart indicating when the balls were put in the canister so other people can help with the process of emptying and filling.
- “To be Recycled” These balls have served their purpose on a tennis court, well-worn and dog ball dead.
Now, this is one of my favorite parts. Once you have 200 balls go to tennisballrecycling.com, indicate the weight of your box of balls and they will send you FREE shipping labels. Take them to UPS of off they go to be repurposed into Laykold cushioned surface material.
Many clubs and individuals have a variety of other ways to repurpose used tennis balls such as giving them to dog parks, using on the end of crutches, walkers and on the legs of chairs in classrooms. I recently saw an article on Facebook that used tennis balls cut in half and glued to chairs that were found to be therapeutic for children with Autism. I’m sure there are others. All are wonderful opportunities to get the most out of what we consume in order to play tennis.
Let’s not forget the used plastic cans often discarded in the trashcan or the net post. I started offering cases of empty cans to schools but after one or two boxes they had more than they needed for the entire year. Here in San Luis Obispo County, there is a charitable organization that uses the empty tennis ball cans to store laundry soap.
If we all do a little we can all do a lot. Once a system is in place it becomes a simple process to get the most out of our tennis balls. Like getting better at anything, making small incremental improvements can have lasting and powerful impact on our game, our club and our planet. Remember, there are no do-overs, no “let’s” when it comes to using our natural resources.
Head Tennis Professional
Templeton Tennis Ranch