What happens to the used balls after Wimbledon?

What happens to the used balls after Wimbledon?

What happens to the used balls after Wimbledon?

Wimbledon, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world, uses a substantial number of tennis balls during its matches.

But what happens to these used tennis balls after the tournament is a question worth exploring.

The Collection Process

After the conclusion of each game day at Wimbledon, the used tennis balls, estimated to be around 54,250, are collected by a group of over 250 ball boys and girls.

These balls are then kept by the Wimbledon organizers until they are ready for the next phase of their journey.

Sale and Donation

Wimbledon offers a unique opportunity for tennis enthusiasts to purchase the used tennis balls.

Subject to availability, these used balls can be bought for a nominal price from the Wimbledon Foundation Kiosk.

The proceeds from the sale go to the foundation's charitable causes. Additionally, any unsold used balls are donated and recycled in the weeks and months following the tournament.

Charitable Donations and Recycling

In the past, Wimbledon organizers have donated used tennis balls to the UK Wildlife Trust.

These balls are repurposed by being cut up and used as homes for harvest mice.

Also, the rubber interior of these tennis balls is recycled for use in new floor coverings at indoor tennis and other sports training facilities, promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness.

The Rules on Tennis Balls at Wimbledon

The tennis balls used at Wimbledon are subject to strict competition rules. All the tennis balls supplied by the Dunlop Slazenger Group are meticulously regulated to ensure fair and consistent gameplay. Players are allowed to check a maximum of four tennis balls before serving to assess their smoothness and firmness. This scrutiny is essential as even slight deviations to the surface of the ball can significantly impact its interaction with the racket and its trajectory during play.

Ball Rotation and Optimum Performance

During matches, the tennis balls are kept in constant circulation to expedite the flow of action. An interesting detail is that these tennis balls are stored under lock and key before usage, with each ball being refrigerated at around 68°F (20°C) to ensure optimum performance.

Rotation and Replacement

The tennis balls are replaced after the first seven games of a match and then after every nine games in accordance with tournament regulations. The umpire calls for "new balls, please" when it is time to change them. In total, 48 tins of balls are taken onto each court every day, ensuring that the players have access to a fresh set of tennis balls as per the tournament guidelines.

Innovative Reuse and Recycling Initiatives

Apart from the traditional sale and donation of used tennis balls, several innovative reuse and recycling initiatives have been implemented to give these tennis balls a second life.

Recycaball and RecycleBalls

Recycaball, a tennis ball recycler, effectively finds new homes for used tennis balls by receiving them from over 1,700 tennis clubs and coaches throughout the UK.

They also offer a repressurizing service for balls that have seen little use.

The organization donates these balls to children’s charities, retirement homes for physiotherapy, police dog training, and dog shelters, ensuring that the used tennis balls serve meaningful purposes.

In the US, RecycleBalls has developed a process to remove 99% of tennis ball felt in a cost-effective manner.

The balls that cannot be reused are recycled into natural crumb rubber for use in various applications such as tennis courts, children's playgrounds, and other forms of surfacing.

The organization is continuously working to develop new ways to repurpose these used tennis balls, including turning them into stucco-like products and even into clothing, demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and creativity in recycling.

Project Green Ball and L’Opération Balle Jaune

Project Green Ball, a US-based voluntary product stewardship program, is dedicated to finding innovative ways to reuse tennis balls.

Their main project involves converting used tennis balls into cushioned mats for the surface of tennis courts. Furthermore, for every 200,000 balls recycled, Project Green Ball donates a 'ball-based surface' to a program for people with disabilities, demonstrating a strong commitment to social responsibility and environmental conservation.

In France, L’Opération Balle Jaune collects tennis balls from the French Open and turns them into coatings for sports hall floors.

This initiative has been highly successful, with 15 million tennis balls collected and 47 floors already completed. The French Tennis Federation, which runs the operation, plans to distribute collection bins to all of their member clubs, further promoting the recycling and repurposing of used tennis balls.

The fate of the used tennis balls after Wimbledon goes beyond simple disposal. From sale and donation to recycling and innovative reuse, these used tennis balls find new purposes, benefiting charitable causes, sustainability, and innovative design.

By exploring the comprehensive process of collecting, reusing, and recycling used tennis balls after Wimbledon, it becomes evident that these tennis balls continue to serve meaningful purposes, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future for the sport.


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