Tennis balls, rackets, and Nike sweatbands are staples when you think about tennis. But ever wonder what happens to all those tennis ball cans once the games are over? Or how about all the garbage left around after the events? During the 2011 U.S. Open, approximately 94 tons of plastic, metal, glass and cardboard will be collected and recycled, along with an estimated 20,000 tennis ball cans. The United States Tennis Association, in an effort to make the U.S. Open an “environmentally responsible and eco friendly event,” launched a program back in 2008 to effectively collect and recycle reusable material. So far, the program has been a huge success and will continue to be implemented at this year’s Open, currently taking place at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens.
“Tennis balls and cans are one of the most essential pieces of the U.S. Open, so we wanted to make it a priority,” said Lauren Kittelstad, a senior manager who works on the USTA’s green initiatives, in an interview with the New York Times.
Recycling tennis ball cans isn’t as easy as you might think. The cans contain three types of plastics and an aluminum rim that must be pulled from each can. Ideally, recycled plastic can be used, but once the cans are made with over 30 percent of recycled plastic, low pressure will begin to affect the tennis balls, reducing bounce. Replacing the plastic with metal cans would be too expensive, and a switch to pressure-less balls is not a popular choice in the U.S.
So far, the recycling program has seen great success, with a nearly 100 percent recycling rate for the cans. Before each match, the umpires are given bags with 15 new cans, each with three balls. After each can is used, the umpire places them into the bag, and drops them off at a station where the cans are sorted out into recycling bins. The USTA has also collected about 70,000 tennis balls during the matches and player’s practices. These tennis balls are then reused in USTA tennis programs and also “donates to various community and youth organizations throughout the United States.”
That’s not all that the program covers. From the U.S. Open kitchens, 985 gallons of food grease will be “converted into biodiesel fuel, and 20,000 pounds of food will be donated to the community.” Fifty tons of food waste will also be collected, and turned into compost for “landscape and farming uses.” Plates, cups, and all other service utensils in the Food Village will also be 100 percent compostable.
The program also doesn’t leave out merchandise. Fans will receive with their purchase a U.S. Open souvenir shopping bag designed for multiple use. New products for the 2011 Open include a “cinch backpack made from six recycled plastic bottles” and a reusable tote made from “80 percent post-consumer waste.” Other products such as notepads, journals and notecard cases all come from 100 percent recycled paper and cardboard. Paper products throughout the grounds—from tickets to napkins to paper towels—will also all be made up of at least 30 percent post-consumer waste
Although the program is a couple of years old, it’s great to see that so far its been a huge success. Other leagues have also followed suit. It’s exciting to see that not only is it fun to catch a game, but it’s also a very green activity!
Via New York Times