Every year all the different tennis ball manufacturers combined make over 300 million tennis balls. Of that total, over 100 million of those tennis balls are sold in America. It is a staggering amount of tennis balls that can eventually make their way to the landfill.
This means that something needs to be done. So can tennis balls be recycled?
The answer is yes but they cannot be recycled in the traditional way. Non-profit organizations such as RecycleBalls and ReBounces will help collect and recycle the million of tennis balls each year that end up in landfills. These tennis balls are converted to to innovative and sustainable products.
On the other hand, the plastic and metal pieces of the tennis ball cans are totally recyclable and can be placed in the recycling bin in your nearest city.
To learn more about this topic just continue to read the article. It has the information you want to know about so you do not throw your old tennis balls into your trash when they wear out.
A Brief History Of Tennis Balls
Originally, back in the early days of the sport (15th century onward to the 19th century), tennis balls were made from leather or cloth.
They were stuffed with more fabric or horsehair to get the right bounce. No matter the color of the material used, tennis balls had to be white during this time.
It is not exactly sure when rubber balls were invented but it was done in India in the 19th century. In 1972, because of television, the International Tennis Federation required that all tennis balls had to be neon green.
The white color was not showing up on television screens very well and viewers had a hard time following the game.
While it was a great invention, the problem with rubber tennis balls is that they are not really biodegradable and can last up to 100 years or more in a landfill. This problem made finding alternative uses a priority.
When is it time to retire your old tennis balls?
There is a very quick and simple method that tells you your tennis balls are too old to use in a game of tennis. As time goes by, the pressurized gas inside those balls leaks out and makes the tennis ball bounce less.
All you have to do is buy a new can of tennis balls, take one out and hold it in your hand. Then take one of your old tennis balls with the other hand and hold it at the same height as the new one.
Let the two balls drop and if the new tennis ball bounces higher than the old one, then it is time to retire the latter tennis ball.
Or, just give the old tennis ball a nice squeeze. If it feels a bit squishy or has a lot of give to it, then it is time to replace it with a new set. Finally, just look at the tennis ball.
If it looks old and worn out, felt is coming off or the color has faded a lot, then replace them.
Any of these steps will guide you to the right time when you should retire those older tennis balls. But do not throw them in the garbage as there are other uses they are still worthy to be a part of.
Can tennis balls be recycled?
Yes and no. There are many traditional recycling bins in many cities that will not take old tennis balls. You just can’t put them in those little blue or green recycle bins and let the recycling center deal with them. They just won’t take them.
But that refusal does not mean you can’t recycle old tennis balls. There are alternatives that we will come to in the next section. Those ideas should provide you with enough options to help you get rid of those old tennis balls lying around your basement or garage.
But wait, there is still some good news. The plastic used in packaging those tennis balls, including any metal materials, can be put in your traditional recycling bins. Don’t throw the packaging away as it can be turned into something else.
The problem of recycling the rubber, which is recyclable, is when tennis ball manufacturers use nylon instead of felting. Nylon has different construction ingredients than rubber and it has different melting points.
Recycling the nylon ingredients is often more difficult and more expensive than simply making new nylon. That stops the recycling of many tennis balls. Again, do not throw those nylon-covered balls away as they still can be used for other purposes.
How to recycle old tennis balls
#1. Creative uses
This option can save you money as you do not need to buy new toys or craft items, etc. Just use old tennis balls instead. Here are some creative ways to re-use those old tennis balls:
- dog toys- many dogs like to chase and chew on balls. Instead of buying a new one every time he or she ruins a ball, use your old tennis balls instead
- decorations- make a Christmas tree out of them or other festive decorations for different times of the year
- dryer ball- this will save you a little money as you won’t have to buy commercially made dryer balls. Just pop a clean tennis ball inside your dryer and make your towels fluffier and help your clothing dry faster
- donate to make homes for endangered mice- you read that right, there is an organization, Wildlife Trust, that has been known to accept old tennis balls for this exact purpose
- arts & crafts projects- there are no limits in this option. Tennis balls can be used for whatever project you have in mind
- massage tool- old tennis balls can be rolled over the back of your loved one and help them relax their muscles after a hard day at work
- coin bank- cut a little slit in the ball and use them to teach your children how to save their allowance
- water preserver- place one or more old tennis balls in the tank at the back of your toilet. Their presence will have the tank fill up faster and you use less water per flush
#2. Tennis ball charities
There are different charitable organizations that accept old tennis balls. They repurpose them in different ways. These companies or organizations are not just located in the US.
Here are a few of those companies to get you started on the right track:
- RecycleBalls- so far they have recycled almost 3,000,000 through their 12,000+ recycle bins placed at tennis courts. The company also works with about 1500 partners to recycle old tennis balls
- Project Green Ball- they have a method that reduces those old tennis balls from spheres to ground-up rubber that can be used in turf and cushioned mats on tennis balls.
- ReBounces- this organization takes tennis balls 200 at a time. They also have available green machines. These machines are supposed to be able to repressurize old tennis balls giving them a little bit more life.
- Recycle Tennis Balls- based in the UK, this organization sends tennis balls to rescue homes, dog charities, and so on. They take donations of 100 balls or more at one time
- Recycaball- also in the UK, this company will pay 25 pence for each ball you send them. If you send them 250 old tennis balls, they will pay you 50 BP and the shipping costs. However, the balls need to be in good condition.
- Operation Balle Jaune- located in France, this organization uses old tennis balls to make new sports floors. They collect the balls at tennis clubs and at the Tour de France
A little research may turn up even more companies that recycle old tennis balls and they may even be close to you.
Also, you should contact these organizations to find out exactly where their bins are. There is always a way to get new life out of old tennis balls.
Can you repressurize old tennis balls?
If you are thinking you can take your bicycle pump and pump more air into old tennis balls, that won’t work. Tennis balls are not like footballs, soccer balls, basketballs where there is a valve to put the needle.
It was once thought that when tennis balls lost their pressurized gas, they were useless. But, there are companies that have methods to put new gas or bounce back into those old tennis balls.
ReBounce has a machine called the green machine and it is made available to schools, tennis clubs, and other organizations that use a lot of tennis balls each year. The savings from not buying new tennis balls pays for the cost of the machine over time.
Then there are different products sold at Amazon and different locations that claim to be able to put the bounce back into old tennis balls. These products are called Pressureball and Gamma.
Whether these products work or not is not known and we do not guarantee that they will work. You are taking your chances when you buy these products.
There are other creative methods to put pressure back into old tennis balls but they have major drawbacks and are just home remedies people claim work.
Some final words
As it stands right now, there are no industry standards that guide recycling old tennis balls. You are up to your own choices and research to find new ways to use those worn out tennis balls.
If you are the creative type, there are innumerable craft projects that can be spiced up with the look of these old tennis balls. Use your imagination as the sky is the limit when it comes to this option.
Also, take the time to research different companies or organizations that recycle old tennis balls. They are using them for worthy causes and are helping to protect the environment.
Find one that has bins located near you so you do not spend a lot of money recycling.