Earth Day is this week (April 22) and I, for one, have finally figured out what to do with all of those used-up un-bouncy tennis balls I have – I'm sending them to Rebounces! Who or what is Rebounces? Rebounces is the company that finally figured out how to recycle dead tennis balls.
I was really lucky that, when I called them to figure out what to do with my old balls, I got to spend some time talking to their Chief of Marketing, Grant Garland. He explained to me how their company came about and just how their process works. The philosophy of Rebounces is “replay, reuse, recycle.” Balls that are in pretty good shape are recharged, using Rebounces' patented technology, and put back into play. Balls that are too worn to be recharged are donated by the company for use on furniture and in pet toys. Balls that are in even worse shape are donated to a 3rd party recycler. The ultimate goal is to keep all of the millions of tennis balls manufactured each year out of landfills.
To recharge tennis balls, Rebounces uses a “Green Machine” that repressurizes old tennis balls, making them pretty close to new again. According to Grant, the Green Machine is a pressure vessel that uses a patented blend of gasses to treat the balls. He said it takes about 3 days to repressurize 400 tennis balls, so this is a serious process.
How do you and I get involved in all of this? By donating our used tennis balls! You can ship 200 or more used tennis balls to Rebounces, at no cost to you, through their donation program. And how does that work? Well, lucky for you, I tried out their system and can tell you and show you, with photos!
1. Collect at least 200 used tennis balls. I was able to pretty quickly collect 300 balls from my team mates and my teaching pro. You could do this on an on-going basis or you could organize your team or club to hold a used-tennis-ball drive. (So you can kind of turn it into a party!)
2. Find a shipping box that can hold that many balls. The Rebounces web site explains exactly what size box you need to ship balls to them (click here to see that info) and Grant directed me to Home Depot for the right size box. It only cost 97 cents, as shown in the photo below (yes, I took a picture to show that the boxes are really that cheap):
3. Pack up your balls! Here's what my box of 300 balls looked like (notice the pretty pink ball):
4. E-mail Rebounces and tell them how many balls you're sending. They will e-mail you a prepaid Fed Ex label to cover the shipping costs. Here are my 300 balls, all packed up with their shipping label in my car on their way to my favorite UPS store where I happen to know the Fed Ex guy comes every day:
And that's it!
I mean that's it if all you want to do is ship them your old tennis balls. What if you decide you have a tennis club or team or group that could use these types of balls? Well, Rebounces sells the repressurized balls back to the public and they are much cheaper than new balls. So, of course, I had to buy back some balls to try out. In fact, I was able to buy back MY OWN balls to get a true test of these repressurized balls. The cost for buying 100 balls is $45, including shipping and handling. I paid an extra $5 to have them shipped directly to my home (vs. having them shipped to a business address). That's 50 cents per Rebounces ball (vs. about 70 to 80 cents a ball for new balls). Here's what I received for my $50:
Here's what I can tell you about my Rebounces balls. These aren't what you would use in a tennis match. They aren't in a pressurized can or bag or anything and they aren't “clean” – they look like the same old balls that I sent in. But they are pretty bouncy. They're great for practicing with and would be perfect for clubs, school teams, kids programs and other teams churning through lots of balls on a constant basis.
My recommendation? Give Rebounces a try for Earth Day. You have nothing to lose – except all of those dead, dirty tennis balls rolling around in your bag!