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Local organization starts tennis ball recycling program

A local tennis organization hopes to score an environmental win with a new program to recycle tennis balls.

Tennis balls are normally thrown into the trash when they can no longer be used. The balls end up in landfills, where they could take hundreds of years to decompose.

The Princeton Tennis Program, a nonprofit that promotes participation in and affordable accessibility to tennis throughout Central New Jersey, estimates that the organization used to throw thousands of used tennis balls into the trash every year like most other tennis groups. Organizers looked into what could be done to solve the problem, and have signed up for a pilot program to give the tennis balls a second life through RecycleBalls.

RecycleBalls, a nonprofit organization based in South Burlington, Vermont, collects used tennis balls and makes eco-friendly products out of them, including new hybrid tennis court surfaces, traffic safety equipment, dog toys, and soft, animal-friendly foot surfaces. Since 2016, RecycleBalls has recycled more than 12 million tennis balls, recycling close to three million balls in 2023 as the program has become more well known. 

In partnership with Wilson Sporting Goods, RecycleBalls has provided specially marked recycling boxes to collect used tennis balls at the Eve Kraft Community Tennis Center on Washington Road in Princeton Junction as part of the Princeton Tennis Program’s pilot recyling program. The tennis balls collected there will be shipped to a processing center for recycling.

“One of the core values of the Princeton Tennis Program is community involvement and with this pilot program, we are adding sustainability to our mission,” said Stephanie Howard, Princeton Tennis Program Director.

If the program is a success, it will be expanded to Community Park in Princeton and Veterans Park in Hamilton. The Princeton Tennis Program already recycles several thousand empty tennis ball cans each year.

“We want the Princeotn Tennis Program to be an environmental model for other tennis organizations in the region,” said Amy Stivala, the general manager of the Princeton Tennis Program.