Recycling tennis balls: dream or reality?

tennis balls

Recycling in tennis : dream or reality ?

What are you doing with your old tennis balls?
Most of our fluffy friends will find themselves in a landfill, non-biodegradable. What a sad image that is! Therefore, more and more clubs are partnering up with recycling companies to give tennis balls either a new life or a new purpose.

For those who like numbers, here are some interesting ones:
  •   Over 325 million tennis balls are produced worldwide every year;
  •   Thrown away tennis balls produce about 20 000 tons of waste (in the form of rubber) every year;
  •   Around 98,000 balls were made specifically for the US Open 2015;
  •   According to the International Tennis Federation, the process involved in the manufacturing of tennis balls has barely changed over the last 100 years. They’re generally made of natural rubber containing additives to enhance strength, colour and low gas permeability;
  •   There are about 200 tennis ball brands approved by the International Tennis Federation;
  •   And our favorite – if the dumped balls would be stacked on top of each other, they would reach ¾ of the distance to the moon!!!!
A new life for tennis balls ?

Does something good happen with old tennis balls ?

M. Deflandre (AFT) says that ” We saw that tennis was a very polluting sport, it is the 3rd one to pollute the most, it is our duty, as a Tennis Federation to find a solution to recycle the balls”. So they have started to take action with a special AFT’s project : click here to see more !

But we can always do more…

So GoTennis is also happily collaborating with BreakBall – an organization that gives tennis balls a new life! Best friends Emilio Torres and Jean Collinet (age 17 and 18) are tennis enthusiasts, who found a brilliant way to minimize their ecological footprint :

“Tennis balls are changed after seven games in professional tournaments. Those seven games can last only a few minutes. So, there is a huge amount of almost new balls wasted. Therefore, in cooperation with the Association Francophone de Tennis, BreakBall gathers all of those balls from the clubs and big tournaments.”

Following the circular economy approach, they choose the balls still fresh for non-professional players. In that way, the balls do not go to waste and players can purchase them with much cheaper price. Quite amazing, isn’t it? In addition, BreakBall also sends tennis equipment to Rwanda so the local children can enjoy that game we all love so much.

As Emilio explains: “Our slogan “Second ball, second life” describes the circulation of economic system. We use the balls for the first time to play with a friend. Then we will pick the still fresh balls and use them again. And after that we still try to make the most of it and donate the material.” It is their modest ambition to make the game more reachable and open for people. Players can buy cheaper balls, nature will benefit.

10,000 tennis balls for a court surface

The year 2015 was a game changer for tennis – three companies called Advanced Polymer Technology, Ace Surfaces and reBounces joined forces to create a recycling system that turns old tennis balls into a tennis court surface!

They were the first of its kind. “It’s time for the tennis industry to wake up and be a part of the solution,” emphasizes Andreas Schulze Ising, the president of Advanced Polymer Technology. Moreover, reBounces describes their recycling mission as a cradle-to-grain approach. And the last of the giants, Ace Surfaces, continues to point out that up to 10,000 tennis balls are incorporated into a single cushioned surface, which provides a 21 percent force reduction. Therefore, those something old-something new courts are offering a friendlier impact for players’ joints.  As a result, tennis lovers can eventually enjoy a healthier game.

To learn more about the process of creating a court with tennis balls… Have a look at this video : click here !

It is clear that there is a lot to be done in the recycling area. It starts with the awareness. Hopefully this short piece manages to give some overview of the situation and evoke further action.

Share your ideas/experiences, dear gotennis players! Have you ever wondered about the recycling in tennis?
GoTennis Team

Sources:
1. Website http://breakball.be
  1. Interview with Emilio Torres
  2. Association Francophone de Tennis (http://www.aftnet.be/tennissolidaire)
  3. International Tennis Federation (http://www.itftennis.com/technical/balls/other/history.aspx)
  4. Website https://fr.slideshare.net/tennisballproject/the-importance-of-tennis-balls-recycling
  5. Website https://www.tennisballrecycling.com
  6. Online magazine “Resource” (https://resource.co/article/new-balls-please-what-happens-300-million-tennis-balls-discarded-every-year-11371)
 
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