Tennis is a popular sport all over the world, and tennis ball manufacturers have evolved their process of producing high-quality balls. Tennis balls are hollow, pressurized spheres made with non-recyclable materials such as PET and rubber, which aid in bounciness and durability for peak performance. It’s not uncommon to use new tennis balls every couple of hours, leaving old ones to be discarded at an alarming rate.
- Tennis balls are made with non-recyclable materials such as PET and rubber, which aid in bounciness and durability for peak performance.
- The environmental impact of tennis balls is grave due to the accumulation of non-biodegradable materials in landfills.
- Despite the environmental impact, manufacturers and organizations have retained methods of producing sustainable tennis balls without forgoing quality.
- Sustainable tennis balls are produced with a thicker core and recyclable materials.
- To reduce the impact of tennis balls on the environment, many manufacturers have created initiatives and alternatives to producing tennis balls.
Since these balls are produced with non-recyclable materials, the environmental impact is grave. Despite this, manufacturers and organizations have retained methods of producing sustainable tennis balls without forgoing quality. Continue reading to learn more about the materials used in tennis balls and the alternatives to reduce their environmental impact.
The materials used in tennis balls
The interior of a tennis ball is constructed with a hollow, two-piece rubber shell and filled with pressurized gas at the core. Modern balls are covered with a felt material, typically made from nylon or wood components. Additionally, tennis balls are 2.5 and 2 5/8 inches in diameter. On average, they weigh between 2 and 2 1/16 oz.
The official color of a tennis ball in a professional setting is bright yellow, which comes from the felt material. While glancing at a tennis ball, you’ll also notice a curvilinear line indented through the outer felt material. The bright yellow felt is pressed and wrapped around the ball to create a durable fabric covering.
All these materials combined contribute to the performance and durability of the ball. Since balls have to bounce during a tennis game, gas is pressurized to 12 pounds per square inch at the core. This helps maintain the ball’s bounce rate. The average tennis ball can bounce 53 to 58 inches high after being dropped from an elevation of 100 inches.
The manufacturing process of tennis balls
When producing tennis balls, certain steps must be followed in the manufacturing process. Understandably, manufacturers produce tennis balls with industry-standard recommendations to achieve the results from peak performance research.
Steps in the standard tennis ball manufacturing process include:
- Soft rubber is pulverized between two rollers for a softer, less rubbery quality.
- Rubber plugs are produced to form the half shells for the ball’s interior.
- The half shells are then coated with an adhesive, bonded together through vulcanization, and a blast of pressurized air is created within the ball.
- The rubber surface of the ball is sanded, and adhesive is applied.
- A felt cover in a dumbbell shape is passed through a glue vat and later applied to the ball.
- Air bubbles are removed, and the ball is sent for another vulcanization process.
- Once the felt material has bonded firmly to the rubber sphere, it is dried and packed into an air-tight can.
On the other hand, sustainable tennis balls undergo a similar process but are produced with a thicker core and recyclable materials. After manufacturing tennis balls, they are sealed in a package and later unpacked to undergo quality assurance testing.
Quality Assurance for Tennis Balls
To ensure every ball meets industry standards, there are quality control measures in place. Tennis balls undergo different testing procedures after being packaged and prepared. Quality assurance for tennis balls includes the following:
- Set removal: A precompression machine removes any material ‘set’ on the tennis ball when subjected to force in three different ways and directions.
- Acclimation and Decompression: Before any testing, balls are acclimatized for 24 hours in a climate-controlled environment. Since temperature and humidity affect tennis ball properties, it can decrease or increase the bound height.
- Deformation testing: A mechanical device applies force to a tennis ball in between two pieces of steel. The amount of deformation is measured on a scale while the force is applied.
This quality assurance process is completed to ensure that the balls are set for force, climate, and longevity. Tennis balls are meant to perform well under various conditions, and when speed and force are taken into consideration, the balls must remain durable and visible for a good game.
The environmental impact of tennis balls
For professional athletes, tennis balls are changed every couple of hours. With this frequency, tennis balls are disposed of very quickly, even after a single use. The materials used in producing these balls have an environmental impact because it takes them 400 years to decompose.
Tennis balls are produced with non-recyclable materials. The outer strands of a tennis ball are made of PET, a microplastic typically used in water bottles. In terms of waste, that causes too much non-biodegradable rubber and plastic to end up in landfills and remain.
To reduce the impact of tennis balls on the environment, many manufacturers have created initiatives and alternatives to producing tennis balls. For instance, Wilson is the first company to introduce sustainability in tennis ball production with its brand Triniti. These balls are recyclable and made from recycled cardboard.
Non-profit organizations such as RecycleBalls also contribute to saving the environment in the world of tennis by working to ensure tennis balls are not disposed of in landfills. This organization receives over 20,000 used tennis balls weekly from tennis clubs around the United States. With these balls, they sustainably produce tennis courts, stucco, and more materials.
What is the main difference between pressurized and pressureless tennis balls?
Pressurized tennis balls are strategically pressurized at the core to produce higher bounce rates and maintain peak performance. On the other hand, pressureless tennis balls are made of a harder rubber material and produce a lower bounce than a pressurized ball. Other differences are that pressureless balls don’t spin as well either, and the industry standard remains a pressurized ball in the game of tennis.
Can you recycle old tennis balls?
The production of tennis balls and their high disposal rates can raise the question of finding alternatives that don’t impact the environment so much. You can recycle tennis balls by sending them to RecycleBalls for a tax credit.
This organization produces other sporting materials with the tennis balls they receive. Additionally, you can reuse tennis balls for sports and leisure activities rather than dispose of them after a single use.
Do sustainable tennis balls work the same as standard balls?
Wilson’s Triniti line is an impressive, sustainable solution on the market for tennis balls. In this case, sustainable tennis balls and packaging materials do not forgo the quality and performance of regular tennis balls. The lighter weight of sustainable tennis balls allows for thicker cores and creates a high rate of consistency for bounciness.
When playing tennis, balls must be bouncy, durable, and able to withstand force. Manufacturers produce tennis balls with this standard in mind. However, the environmental impact raises alarms because tennis ball materials are not biodegradable or easily recyclable.
When purchasing tennis balls, consumers have the choice of sustainable solutions that have comparable quality and indistinguishable differences in performance. Additionally, being mindful of the impact of tennis ball materials on the environment and disposal alternatives can help reduce the accumulation within landfills.