Tennis players have the option to collect old tennis balls for mail-in recycling programs or take advantage of a bevy of reuse options.

tennis-ball-recycling.jpg Looking to green your tennis game? While you may not be able to put tennis balls in your recycling cart, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are several ways to recycle and reuse them.

What are tennis balls made of?

Tennis balls are essentially rubber balls covered in felt. The rubber ball is injected with pressurized air to ensure it will bounce correctly. Once the ball has been completely sealed, it is covered in a layer of wool or nylon felt, which helps the ball last longer. Tennis balls were traditional white, but in 1972 the International Tennis Federation started requiring players to use neon yellow balls because they showed up better on television. When tennis was first invented in the 19th century, balls were made of leather or cloth and stuffed with fabric or horsehair. Rubber tennis balls were first developed in India and quickly became the standard all over the world.

When do tennis balls need to be recycled?

Over time, the pressurized air leaks out of tennis balls, making them unsuitable for play. There are a couple ways to tell if a tennis ball is too old to be used for your tennis game. Hold an old tennis ball at the same height as a new one and compare how high both of them bounce. If the new one bounces quite a bit higher, the old one should be retired. You can also squeeze an old ball and see how squishy it is. A good ball should not give very much in your hand. Looking at the ball can be a good indicator of age as well. Tennis balls that are very faded or have felt falling off are probably unsuitable for play.

How to recycle tennis balls

Most curbside recycling programs will not accept tennis balls, although it is worth checking to see if they will take the plastic canisters that hold new tennis balls. Canisters made by Penn, a leading tennis ball manufacturer, are made of plastic #1 (also known as PET or PETE), which many curbside programs do in fact accept. Project Green Ball is one of a limited number of companies that recycle tennis balls. The company grinds them up and turn them into flooring. So far a couple equestrian arenas have used the material to resurface their facilities, but Project Green Ball hopes the material can eventually be used for playgrounds as well. Project Green Ball has collection bins at various locations up and down the East Coast. You can also mail tennis balls to the company. View the “Donate” page of their website for more details. ReBounces is another company dedicated to tennis ball recycling. ReBounces requires that you send a minimum of 200 balls at a time, but if you send the company a message and tell them how much your box weighs it will send you a prepaid shipping label. ReBounces does not charge a recycling fee. ReBounces also offers a Green Tennis Machine, which allows old tennis balls to be reused several times. It is available to schools, tennis clubs and other establishments that go through a lot of tennis balls. ReBounces’ website claims that the cost of the machine can quickly be offset by the savings of not purchasing new balls regularly.

Tennis balls for dogs, homes, craft projects

If you have a dog, chances are he or she will chase an old tennis ball no matter what kind of shape it is in. But use caution: Dogs can pull the yellow felt off tennis balls or chew them into pieces, and those small pieces are choking hazards. If you give tennis balls to your dog, watch the dog closely while he or she has it and do not allow your dog to chew on it for long periods of time. Pinterest has some suggestions for attaching ropes to tennis balls or doing other things to make them into even better dog toys. They also have several fun ideas for craft projects:
  • Add a couple eyes, cut a slit for a month, and mount the tennis ball to a piece of wood. Voilà – you have a cute critter to mount to your wall and hold pens, mail, keys or other small items.
  • Glue them together to make animals or other critters.
  • Use them for sports-themed holiday ornaments.
Here are a few ideas for recycling tennis balls around the home:
  • If the unwanted tennis balls are clean, put them in the dryer with your wet clothes. They will decrease the drying time — saving you both money and energy at the same time!
  • Put tennis balls in your toilet tank, which will decrease the amount of water used for every flush (again, you save green and do something green).
  • Cut a slit in an old ball and use it to store coins. This is a fun way to encourage kids to save for new tennis equipment.
  • Roll tennis balls over a loved one’s back to give him or her a massage.