We began in Vermont in 2016 and the tremendous success of our pilot program has allowed us to expand nationwide and help individuals and facilities leverage the lessons we’ve learned in adopting these proven processes.
We’re not your typical nonprofit. We’re applying best practices from manufacturing and distribution to achieve our goals quickly and efficiently. The shared nature of our mission has inspired people of every age to get involved. A growing network of partners and individuals are spearheading a first-of-its-kind positive change for U.S. tennis by their example and are ensuring that tennis in the U.S. will become a green sport.
RecycleBalls is a networked collection solution:
RecycleBalls is a full recycling solution:
In February 2019, Recycleballs was one of four non profits nominated as an environmental finalist in the prestigious 2019 Halo awards.
Tennis players recognize a significant environmental problem and agree that U.S. tennis players need to change their habits and recycle their tennis balls. Typically, tennis players open a new can of tennis balls every time they play because of the quick decline in pressure and the lack of consistency in previously played balls. Nationwide, approximately 125 million used tennis balls wind up in America’s landfills every year. That is 20,000 metric tons of methane-producing rubber waste that takes 400 years to decompose!
Tennis players want to do what is right environmentally and would recycle all of their balls if there were easily accessible courtside recycling bins available where they play. Organizations want to be part of the solution, but there needs to be a return of value that reflects well on their brand without increasing expenses. In short, there needs to be a cost-effective, universally adopted initiative to collect, recycle and publicize a solution that will keep all tennis balls out of U.S. landfills.
Simply put – there is no money in it.
Profitability from recycled tennis ball rubber is almost non-existent given that it must compete with low-cost ubiquitous tire rubber. There has been no formalized tennis ball collection program/solution prior to RecyleBalls that was sustainable and nationally scalable. There is also the prohibitive factor of costly necessary infrastructure and costs of de-felting and the management needed to facilitate these efforts. For these reasons, tennis ball recycling has not been able to successfully materialize, despite the depth of the problem and the considerable passion to see this happen.
Regardless of the challenges above, we set out in 2017 with a program idea and a bold non-profit mission without knowing exactly how we would make any of it work. We felt that “if we built it, the solutions would appear.”
This non-profit was initiated by the passion and generosity of a few who volunteered their time, talent and treasure. We started small and grew quickly by offering no-cost programs with a hope that these programs would be permanently funded by corporate donors and the generosity of the US tennis community whose habits we were changing.
However, the funding to power this growth was simply not sustainable, especially since we were not subsidized by any grants, associations or government funding. This required a creative approach to funding our growth including:
In 2019 we signed a three-year partnership with Wilson Sporting Goods – our key sponsor and partner who has generously provided us with some funding and institutional guidance.
After 3 years of growth and despite our best efforts to maintain no-cost programs, we outlived volunteer management resources and were no longer able to fund increasing full-time expenses. We had to make a change.
In January 2020 we made a decision to require a fee-based donation/sponsor model for all of our programs. This new fee-based system will ensure our sustainability and growth including funding the necessary R&D to create high publicity value products from recycled tennis balls. With more awareness and a continuing outreach for more corporate partners and donors, we hope to revert back to no-cost programs in the near future.
Currently, our recycling line, the PLAY IT GREEN machine, represents a net expense. Given increasing sustainability interest and our commitment to finding new partners and potential products, this is changing. The investment we have made in this new, first-of-its-kind, custom-built recycling line, holds the promise that with increased production and further product R&D, the GREEN GOLD produced may fund much of this initiative.
Given such a positive response and substantial network growth in the USA, we have continued to receive a stream of requests to bring our patented bin system, programs, processes, and intellectual property to other countries. In 2020, we changed our mission to “Recycle and reuse ALL tennis balls” with a goal to spread this mission globally in a considered, cost-effective fashion.
Derrick is a thought-leader who has brought his success from 30 years in manufacturing, distribution, and management to the RecycleBalls mission. He believes that for green innovations to be successful, they must have two central components: first, they must be practical, and second, they must create models for positive change. RecycleBalls was established on these two principles and seeks to work at every level of the sport to bring about the mission of recycling all tennis balls in the country.
Jeremy is a Client Success Manager dedicated to working with tennis players and facilities across the country and helping to make tennis a green sport. Prior to joining Recycleballs, Jeremy worked in New York as community support specialist in the tech industry and as a planning analyst for a record label. He loves living in Burlington and being part of the Vermont community. In his free time, Jeremy performs standup and sketch comedy.
David has been with RecycleBalls from the start and has been instrumental in developing the many integrated systems that define the QUICKSHIP experience. Dave created the unique inventory tracking processes as well as most of the functionality in an extensive customer retention management system. Besides delivering superb systems/infrastructure solutions, Dave is also involved in local theater and serves on the board of the Vermont Green Building Network.
Ryan has been managing the Vermont operations of RecycleBalls for the last two years with great success. As part of the early business development effort, Ryan spoke to many players, facilities managers and pros about the need to recycle. The enthusiastic response to the idea fueled early efforts within the organization to quickly develop a practical solution. Those efforts led directly to the creation of the patent-pending QUICKSHIP recycle bin, which has met with great success.
Jason Mandel is a rising tennis player student at Beverly Hills High School in California. Jason has established partners with several facilities and provided them with our QUICKSHIP program. His dedication and tenacity have already resulted in the recycling of 10,000’s of tennis balls! He’s determined to exceed expectations and attend a top-ranked university in 2021 and major in entrepreneurship. We could not be prouder to have Jason as a model for other aspiring Ambassadors.
Tessa majored in environmental studies and started working at Sand Point Tennis Center in Seattle, Washington, after she graduated, which is when she realized just how wasteful the sport is. Tessa started working with RecycleBalls this past summer and has already prevented over 20,000 tennis balls from ending up in US landfills! And she’s not stopping there. Tessa also worked with Nike to start a collection process for their shoe recycling program. We are so happy to have Tessa as an Ambassador.