|Posted on November 17, 2015 at 10:35 AM|
"There is no Industry Standard for recycling tennis balls" - The founders of Project Green Ball hit the nail on the head stating this on their website, and I saw this as a challenge. As a veteran Systems Engineer and tennis enthusiast, I have brainstormed this for many years with my tennis pro friend Ryan. It took a lot of noodling to figure it out, so when I finally got an opportunity to really work on it, we found that a solution could be created - but it would take some serious effort.
First, a slide to give you some context about why tennis balls have not been successfully recycled in any meaningful quantities to date. In a nutshell, the little guys are scattered all over the world where people play tennis. Getting them all collected up is the first hard part.
Even if you could collect them all, sorting the good ones that shouldnt be thrown away from the ones that should is the next pain. Higher end clubs have to throw away a lot of balls that the general public could still play tennis with. They need to keep the quality level high in their lesson carts for members who pay for top pro instruction. The difficulty in sorting them is well-known in the industry, so without a cheaper/easier sorting solution, they must discard the good with the bad. Most all clubs try very hard to repurpose them somehow but it is a losing battle.
What makes the whole process work on a large scale, and be SUSTAINABLE turns out to be good old free-market enterprise. Everyone agrees tennis balls should be recycled, but someone has to do the work needed to make it happen. Someone needs to invest in it. Entrepreneurs do this all the time, and that is what makes good viable businesses. The sustainable solution to recycling tennis balls MUST include someone getting paid to spend their time doing it!
So, now that you understand the incentive for businesses to invest in this, you can see the whole picture. As an engineer and business owner, I can only invest my own time and money to solve a problem if I can earn some income from the work. I do this so I dont have to sit in a cubicle working for some big corporation. So we engineered a complete solution (see graphic below) where the good tennis balls mixed in with the pile of discarded practice cart balls from indoor clubs, are mined and re-sold to pay for the labor and costs of recycling the rest.
The role 1st-Service plays is the tennis ball "Recycler". Our enabling technology is the patent pending sorting process I invented. The business innovation is the partnership agreement between supplier clubs and recycler to cover shipping costs. The fact that used tennis balls have value in the marketplace provides the financial input to pay for the cost of sorting and shipping the balls, thus motivating the business to do the work and get paid.
The final piece is "the market" (which is you, the avid tennis player) BUYING our rebound tested high quality used tennis balls. If we dont sell enough good balls we sort out of every batch, we cannot afford to handle and recycle the rest of them. Your part is critical, but the great thing about it is you will be getting excellent tennis balls, saving money, AND doing something good for the environment! We all win!
See how it all comes together? Let's get excited about this concept. Lots of people are already doing the right things to keep the massive amount of tennis balls from filling up land-fills, but putting it all together will allow us to do it on a global scale and make a huge difference.
Hope that explains Sustainability. Are you with me?
Categories: How sustainability can happen