If you play tennis, there’s nothing like the springy bounce of that brand-new tennis ball right out of the canister.
Play enough games with that ball and the bounce wears off and the ball becomes sluggish. Time for a new ball.
It’s estimated that the 250,000 tennis courts in the United States discard more than 125 million tennis balls, or 20,000 metric tons of methane-producing rubber and nylon that cannot decompose into the country’s landfills annually.
Tennis clubs all over the world have been grappling with how to recycle or re-purpose used tennis balls. Last spring, the Pleasantville Tennis Club on Willow Street started collecting discarded balls in a bin at the club.
“We were trying to figure out how to recycle the balls instead of throwing them in the dumpster,” said Marielise Watts, the club’s manager.
Watts wasn’t sure what to do with the several hundred balls filling up the bin until she learned of a nonprofit organization called RecycleBalls located in South Burlington, Vt.
RecycleBalls was launched in 2016 with a singular mission to recycle and reuse every tennis ball in the United States. It offers just the kind of program Watts was looking for.
She got on board and signed up the Pleasantville Tennis Club, also a nonprofit organization, to be a RecycleBalls program sponsor.
“As a sponsor they shipped us bins, posters and instructions,” Watts said. “The bins, which can hang on the fence, come with prepaid UPS shipping labels, and as a sponsor, it costs us about $50 a month, tax-deductible funds that can go back into the club.”
To date, Watts said she has sent as many as 1,600 tennis balls to RecycleBalls.
“I still have more in the shed,” she said.
Watts reached out to Matt Trainor, Pleasantville’s superintendent of recreation and parks, to see if bins could be placed at the Foxwood public tennis courts on Bedford Road. Watts said Trainor responded favorably and told her it “was a great idea and very simple to implement.” Bins are expected to be placed outside of the fence at the Foxwood entrance, she said.
Other Westchester municipalities that have been recycling tennis balls are New Rochelle, Scarsdale, North Castle and Yonkers. In 2018, 2,000 tennis balls from Scarsdale were recycled and re-used in the Lakeland School District as school chair sliders, when the balls are placed on the ends of chair less, to reduce classroom noise.
According to RecycleBalls, ground-up balls are being used for equestrian flooring mulch and as additives to tennis court sub-surfaces. A variety of other uses are also being developed. Courts at CourtSense Tennis Training Center, at Tenafly Racquet Club in New Jersey, features a layer of cushioning on its playing surfaces made from thousands of recycled tennis balls.
Currently, Pleasantville tennis players are asked to drop their used and old tennis balls at 156 Great Oak Lane until the spring when the tennis club’s clubhouse reopens.
Watts said the Pleasantville Tennis Club, with its six Har-Tru courts and a brand-new tots teaching court, should easily fill the recycling tennis ball bins.
“After all, it’s Pleasantville and it’s all about being green,” she said.
To learn more about RecycleBalls, visit www.recycleballs.org.