Recycling on the courts

Joy Hitzeman has taken the lead on an effort to recycle the many tennis balls that lose their bounce on local courts. Photo courtesy Edwin Hacking

Joy Hitzeman, a dedicated tennis player and officer with the Pacifica Tennis Club, recently learned a way to reuse those used tennis balls and keep them out of the landfill.

“Most players open a new can each time they meet to play, often using those balls only once,” she wrote in an email to the Tribune. “This leads to a lot of balls being discarded and ending up in a landfill. I would love to spread the word and help get tennis balls out of landfills everywhere, not just Pacifica.”

While reading her tennis magazine, “Racquet Sports Industry,” she learned about an or-ganization that developed a machine that removes 99 percent of the felt from 10,000 balls per hour then crumbling the balls into a crumb-like rubber that can be used for sports fields and playgrounds.

“This material is used by Advanced Polymer Technology Sports to make new Laykold Mas-ters tennis courts, natural rubber flooring for playgrounds and horse arenas, rubber form sign bases and possibly, in the not-too-distant future, T-shirts and tennis shoes,” Hitzeman wrote.

Inspired by the opportunity to save tennis balls from landfills, Hitzeman set up a place near Pacifica’s tennis courts where used balls can be collected in large waterproof crates. She will send the balls back to the nonprofit organization that runs the recycling program.

“They provide mailing labels so I don’t have to pay any shipping fees. Since this is a non-profit, we can also get a tax deduction of about 40 cents per ball,” she wrote.

Hitzeman set up the crates next to the courts at Terra Nova High School two weeks ago and has already collected about 300 tennis balls she will box up and send to RecycleBalls.

“With use, the balls become ‘flat’ and don't bounce as well as new tennis balls. So, if all eight courts are being used at Terra Nova High School, it is very likely that eight cans of new balls are being used.

“That totals 24 balls,” she wrote.

Tennis is one of the few relatively safe activities players can enjoy during this COVID-19 pandemic, Hitzeman noted.

“It is such a pleasure to see new people on the courts, adults who are just learning this wonderful sport as well as parents teaching their young children. It is not only great exer-cise but also a way to socialize during these difficult times,” she wrote.

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