An estimated 300 million tennis balls are being manufactured each year, mostly in China. Those 300 million tennis balls contribute roughly 20,000 metric tons of waste in the form of rubber that is not easily biodegradable. To make matters worse, plastic tennis ball cans are not easily recyclable as most recycling centers in the United States will not accept the cans with the aluminum ring at the top. The aluminum ring is a necessary connecting piece for the metal pull-tab sealing each pressurized can. The recycling dilemma in the tennis industry is becoming more and more a burden and a liability in this day and age. The tennis ball manufacturers are strangely absent and seem to be unable to act. A small company in Harrison, Arkansas has stepped in and provided a cost effective solution for bulk users of tennis balls, prolonging their life way beyond regular usability. The Green Tennis Machine is a timely product made in the USA and early adopters provide glowing reviews.
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Judy Anderson, Tennis Coordinator at the Ken-Caryl Ranch Metropolitan District Tennis Program in Denver, Colorado, says, “Ken-Caryl Ranch has been implementing sustainable practices for many years now from retrofitting light bulbs to recycling old used tennis shoes and was excited when approached by reBounces to be the first in the state of Colorado (high altitude) to try the Green Tennis Machine. We were a little skeptical about the ability to revitalize used tennis balls but after a few trial runs to dial in the correct amount of time we decided immediately that we had to have one.”
The Green Tennis Machine Anderson was referring to is the only machine in the world that bulk-repressurizes up to 432 tennis balls in one sturdy chamber made in the USA. 432 which is equal to six cases of balls or 144 cans.The 160 lb machine looks a little like a mixture between an old fashioned coal burning stove and a turkey cooker. Operation is pretty simple. Load balls into chamber, close lid air tight, connect CO2 for a minute to create the required pressure in the chamber, walk away. Come back after 2-3 days and unload a big batch of “new” tennis balls. The balls will not have new felt and won’t be cleaner than before, but they’ll bounce exactly like new balls.
Anderson adds, “We call our Green Tennis Machine “Raji” (taken from Green Bay Packers nose tackle) and it is easy to use and has become an important part of our program. We are able to provide balls for lessons that have a consistent bounce while keeping them out of landfills and with a substantial savings to our budget. Not only do the balls not go to landfills but also the number of empty cans is reduced tremendously. Every club should be using a Green Machine.”
Ken-Caryl Ranch is one of the early adopters of a technology invented by Bill Dirst, CEO of reBounces, LLC. The web site states that Bill began exploring different methods of recharging lifeless tennis balls a decade ago, while volunteering as a high school tennis coach. He calls his patented invention “Green Tennis Machine”. Dirst is determined to make every tennis player’s pain of throwing away tennis balls after just a few sets of usage a thing of the past by launching a national tennis ball recycling initiative while helping grow the game. The reBounces web site states that “…no electricity is required for operation of the Green Tennis Machine and there are no significant operational costs other than the annual gas contract.” The company will provide clients with the gas blend required to operate the Green Tennis Machine. The cost for the gas works out to around one penny per ball recharged if the Green Tennis Machine is utilized at full capacity.
Quite a few progressive thinking tennis club owners and tennis directors have become early adopters of the system and many endorse the process enthusiastically. Tom Fey of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden as well as John Letts of South Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco Racquet Club are amongst reBounces’ west coast clients. Tom Wangelin of the East Bank Club in Chicago and Fernando Velasco of Austin’s Circle C Tennis Club are some of many Illinois and Texas clients. Jim Tearny of Florida’s Boca Raton Tennis Center and Tim Noonan of the Universal Tennis Academy in Atlanta have also provided glowing product endorsements.
To fully utilize a system like this and save money on e.g. practice balls for the tennis pro’s carts, the user has to be smart. A good habit is to always have two loads of repressurized balls ready to go, like a ball reservoir. When a pro drops off his or her cart with old balls, just fill that cart from the reservoir and put the old balls in the pipeline for the reBounces process. Since that process takes 66 hours to fully repressurize a large load of balls, make sure that machine is humming day and night.
According to Bill Dirst, many users are able to pay off the cost of the Green Tennis Machine within one year from monthly savings alone. And that seems to be the reason why clients embrace the process so much once they implemented the required changes in thinking. Financial savings in light of environmentally responsible actions are creating a win-win scenario any which way you look at it.
Dallasbased Northwood Club’s Director of Tennis David Redding sums it all up, “Northwood Club is proud to be a part of the growing number of clubs that are going green. Our Green Tennis Machine allows us to have fresh tennis balls in each of our six pro’s teaching carts and both of our ball machines on a constant and ongoing basis at a much lower cost. We expect that the money we save from not buying as many new teaching balls will allow us to pay for the machine within the first year. The environment is happy, the pros are happy, the members are happy, and the club is happy. It’s a beautiful thing.”
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