13 Creative Ways to Recycle Tennis Balls

Written by Mark Sampson
Last updated on

Have you ever wondered where to recycle tennis balls? Avid tennis players go through so many balls that we feel bad just tossing them in the garbage. So it’s important to consider the other possible options.

Buying balls in bulk is a good way to stock up on balls for future matches. But what should you do with all the old, dead ones? Just toss them in the garbage?

Instead of throwing these fuzzy leftovers away, why not recycle them in creative ways? You can turn them into jar openers, massage balls, kids’ craft supplies, and so much more. You can also just send them in for proper recycling. Read on for some ideas!

Where Can You Recycle Tennis Balls?

When used tennis balls are piling up everywhere, it’s time to look for places to recycle them. It’s estimated that as many as 125 million tennis balls end up in landfills each year. That’s crazy, since it takes about 450 years for a ball to break down naturally.

France has created its own tennis ball recycling program, but other countries have been slower to act. In the USA, we have fewer options.

But if you’ve got at least 100 balls to recycle, check out Recycle Balls. They’ll send you shipping labels, and you can ship the balls directly to them. The company turns the balls into a crumb rubber product that is useful in a number of ways. You’ll even get a receipt, and the donation is tax-deductible.

Alternate Uses for Old Tennis Balls

There are lots of other ways to repurpose tennis balls in unique and creative ways. Some of these suggestions may sound off-the-wall, but you’ll likely find at least a couple practical ideas in this list.

1. Massage Balls

Anyone who plays tennis can use a good massage. While you could buy some massage and therapy balls made specifically for that purpose, you could also just use your dead balls to massage your lower back, shoulders, thighs, calf muscles, and other tight and tender spots.

2. Christmas Tree Ornaments

What’s round and fuzzy and hangs on a Christmas tree? A tennis ball ornament, of course! Make your ornament by taking a handful of used tennis balls and spraying them with glitter paint from a craft store. Glue on sequins, sparkles or other festive decorations. Poke a hole in the ball, add a short piece of ribbon, and hang it on your tree for all to admire.

3. Canine Chew Toy

Delight your fur-faced family members with a gift they can sink their teeth into. Dogs love to chew tennis balls, and chasing down balls thrown by their owner is a canine’s idea of heaven. All that running and retrieving will burn off Fido’s excess energy, keeping him lean and healthy.

dog chew toy

4. Jar Openers

No, really! If you’ve ever struggled to open a small jar, try this trick. Cut a tennis ball in half. Place it over a jar lid, and turn. The rubber grips the lid, and the fuzz on the ball gives you a better gripping surface, giving you the leverage needed for popping open those stingy lids.

5. Senior Citizen Walker

It’s a stereotype that seniors use tennis balls on the bottom of their walkers, but it’s often true. The balls can give them better traction and helps them avoid falls. If you have older loved ones who use walkers, go ahead and offer them a few. You may even inquire whether a local senior center might have use for them.

6. Furniture Protectors

Same concept as the walkers – slide a cut-open ball over the legs of heavy dressers and other pieces of furniture to protect hardwood floors. Of course, you’ll want to take them off when company comes over, as tennis balls in your living room aren’t exactly fashionable.

7. Tennis Ball Mini-Planters

Love to garden? Using a sharp knife, carefully cut one-quarter of the rubber (a wedge-shaped piece) out of old tennis balls. This should leave you with something that looks like a chair. Add a piece of nylon line to the end with a snap or swivel hook, poke a small drainage hole in the bottom, and you have a tiny hanging planter.

Fill the planter with potting mix. Tuck in a tiny air plant, a succulent, some creeping jenny, or other plants that stay small and compact. In the spring, you can hang several of these from the porch for a miniature hanging garden look.

8. Container Garden Pot Filler

Here’s another gardening option. When spring comes and you’re ready to plant some containers of annual flowers, dump some old balls in the bottom of the pots. The balls take up space, so you won’t need as much potting soil. This saves money, and makes the pots lighter and easier to move around. It’s a win-win!

9. Kids Craft Kit

Here’s another creative way to recycle tennis balls. Kids love to paint on things, and light green-yellow balls are the perfect canvas for creative minds to work with to bring out their artistic side.

Gather a selection of craft items—markers, glue, sequins, finger paint, buttons, cloth scraps, and anything else you can think of that kids could use safely to design and decorate their balls. Throw in some cardboard toilet paper and paper towel tubes for display stands, which they can also decorate.

10. Coin Holder
Need a makeshift piggy bank or change purse? Cut a slit in an old ball, and you’ve got it. Balls are small, so you may need a few. It’s easy to have one for quarters, one for dimes, etc., to keep them organized.

11. Juggling Set
Have you ever learned to juggle? It’s actually not that tough to juggle three or four balls at a time. Tennis balls are the perfect size and weight to make it happen. Find a quick tutorial video on Youtube and give it a shot!

12. Bathroom Curtain Rod Wall Protector
Curtain rods span the walls of the bathroom, usually using an internal spring to hold the ends of the rod tight against the walls. These ends can mark the walls over time. Decorate some old tennis balls with water proof paint, dye, or vinyl. Cut holes in one end. Now you can attach them to the ends of the rods as wall protectors.

13. Candle Holders

Cut tennis balls in half and decorate them to taste. Make a hole in the top of each hemisphere to insert a candle in. Choose candles that match the ball’s décor.

From direct recycling of balls to repurposing them into something new, you now have a number of different ways to turn those old fuzzy leftovers into something worthwhile.

And remember, you could always just keep those balls and splurge for a tennis ball shooter machine. Give yourself some practice time in with those old balls!