There’s something amazing about hitting a fresh tennis ball right out of the can. It has a zing and zip that is unmatched. But tennis balls quickly lose their oomph, and much more quickly than we’d like, our tennis balls will die.
If you’re looking to be a more environmentally friendly tennis player, here are some things you can do to keep your dead tennis balls from ending up in a landfill.
What can you do with old tennis balls? You can donate them to various organizations (if you have a lot of them) or use them around the house (if you have a small amount).
Some statistics about tennis ball waste:
- The US produces 125 million trashed tennis balls per year
- Tennis balls take on average 400 years to decompose
- A tennis ball is only good for tennis for two weeks after they’re opened
- Devices like tennis ball savers and tennis ball repressurizers can help increase longevity but aren’t widely used
- It is expensive to recycle tennis balls, which is why there aren’t many companies that can do it
While we love our sport, we need to also love our planet. Below, we’ll look at ways that players of all levels can keep their tennis balls from just ending up in the town dump. This is true whether you own a club and end up with hundreds of dead balls at your facility each week or you buy a couple of cans a month.
If you’ve got a lot of tennis balls that you’re not using:
1. Donate Them To a Nursing Home or Hospital In Your Area
Tennis balls can add grip to canes and walkers, and they can help eliminate the awful noise that comes when that mobility aids skid across the floor. If you’ve got a bunch of balls, cut an X into them and donate them to an organization near you that has a high concentration of items like that.
You can also donate them to schools. Teachers will frequently put them on the bottom of chairs in their classroom.
2. Donate Them To a Tee-Ball or Youth Baseball or Softball Team
It may seem like a strange inter-sports donation, but a lot of times, young players will do drills with soft balls, like tennis balls. This can help ensure that the little ones don’t get a concussion if they’re trying to catch a pop fly out of the air.
They also practice throwing and hitting with tennis balls, so find a Little League coach and offer up all of your old tennis balls. They’ll appreciate the gesture, and they’ll have more than enough balls to go around at their practices.
3. Donate Them To a Dog Shelter or Dog Park
Most dogs go crazy for tennis balls, and they don’t mind if they’re not at peak pressure. Local animal shelters rely heavily on donations of all kinds, and tennis balls provide fun and stimulation for the dogs.
Alternatively, take your tennis balls to a nearby dog park or dog-friendly beach. Leave them with a sign that they’re free and open to all, and rest easy knowing that you’ve made some dogs very, very happy.
4. Recycle Tennis Balls
You can’t just toss your old tennis balls into the recycling bin, but there are a couple of organizations that specialize in repurposing tennis balls. RecycleBalls works with Wilson and the USTA to recycle tennis balls into materials to make tennis courts, a stucco replacement for construction, and rubber mulch for playgrounds, horse enclosures, and other applications.
They place bins courtside, with more locations continually being added to their network. This is a great solution to just drop your balls in as you notice they’ve lost their luster.
However, if you don’t see their green bins around anywhere, you can also send off for a shipping label to ship your balls to their facility free of charge. Just make sure you know the weight of your package before you request a label.
If you have a few that you want to put to use around the house:
5. Toss Them In The Dryer
Adding two tennis balls into your dryer with your clothes will help prevent clothes from clumping as they rotate around. This means they’ll dry more quickly, and as a result, you’ll use less energy and get your clothes ready to wear as soon as possible.
They sell products specifically for this purpose, but if you’re a tennis player, no need to spend extra money. Just use those dead balls in the dryer, and give a set to everyone you know who does laundry.
6. Use a Tennis Ball as a Gripper
We have all struggled with stubborn jar lids, and those with mobility issues in their hands can be at a severe disadvantage when they want to open a jar of spaghetti sauce.
If you’re feeling particularly weak after practice and want a shot of pickle juice to ward off the cramps, you’ll need to ensure that you can get into the jar.
Use a box cutter to very carefully cut the tennis ball along the white line. When you’ve separated the ball into two halves, use one half to grip the top of the jar. You’ll want to hold it with the felt in your palm and the rubber on the lid of the jar. This will help you get additional grip and pop the lid right off.
7. Party Anchors
If you’re having a party with balloons, slice open a tennis ball, put in some sand or pebbles, and push the strings of the balloons into the hole. This will help keep them from floating away and making the children at the party cry.
You can also use weight tennis balls to keep tablecloths from blowing around on a windy day. Wrap a small stone in the corner of the tablecloth’s material and tie some twine or rope around it (essentially creating a grommet).
Secure the other end of the string into the weighted tennis ball and keep the tablecloth from ending up drenching in barbecue sauce.
Tennis is unique in the turnover of one of its key pieces of equipment. Other sports get a lot more longevity out of their equipment, especially at lower levels of the sport. However, tennis just doesn’t work that way.
As tennis players, we have a responsibility to ensure that we don’t just throw our tennis balls in the trash. They take a long time to decompose, but that means they’re durable. Tennis balls can be used in a lot of settings off the court, so do your part to give your dead tennis balls new life.