Glenn C. Sterkel

South Elgin, IL 60177
Phone: (630) 675-0250
[email protected]
Innovative Property Improvement Solutions for the Chicago, IL area.                 1st-Service
Specializing in Staircase Remodeling and Aluminum Restoration

Business and Home Renewal Services

Innovative Business and Home Improvement Solutions for the Chicago, IL area

Recycling Initiatives

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A summary of the 1st-Service Business Initiative to recycle tennis balls

Posted on December 30, 2015 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

We make tennis ball recycling work on a greater scale, by creating a system of incentives to get key players in the tennis training industry to participate.


We are targeting a specific niche in the industry where large quantities of tennis balls are used for professional lessons, practice, and drills at premier tennis training clubs around the country.


These clubs must maintain a high quality level for the large quantities of balls they keep in carts court-side for their training programs. These balls must be replaced every few weeks to maintain the consistency expected from serious players. In this process however, it is very difficult to separate the relatively un-used balls from those that have been completely worn out, so when enough of them start becoming "dead", they must replace all the balls in a cart with new balls. There are a significant number of decent ones remaining. That is where 2nd-Bounces comes in…


The discarded indoor cart balls from all the premier tennis training clubs (that participate in our program) are sent to the nearest processing facilities. These facilities use our patented sorting system to separate the balls that can still be used for tennis, from the ones to be recycled.


Then we rely on you, our customers to buy the ones that are fit for tennis, maximizing the life span of these high quality balls.


Recycling anything costs money and energy, but re-using an item for it's original intended purpose is the most eco-friendly way. This re-use step generates the money (by customer purchases) needed to pay for the labor and transportation costs to recycle the rest.


"The rest" that no longer bounce well enough then get properly recycled though our partnerships with non-profit organizations and manufacturers who can put the material to good use. By sending these balls to non-profit organizations, the processing facilities and the donating clubs can recoup some of the cost to ship them through normal charitable tax deductions.


Its a crucial relationship, it doesnt work without the team participation of all parties - the clubs, the non-profits, and the customers.


And this enables us to keep as many balls as possible out of the landfill – that is our ultimate goal for the love of the game and creation.

The Problem with Tennis Balls

Posted on November 17, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Tennis balls are quirky little yellow fuzzy cute bouncy things, that we toss into the air and THWACK as hard as we can at a player across the net from us (trying to miss them of course).  In aggressive defensive response, our opponent THWUMPS the little guy back at us in defiance.

At least that is how I suspect it may seem to the poor little ball. These guys are made of simple rubber and cloth and filled with about 15 lb of pressure. They are pretty uniformly spherical but if you examine them real close by bouncing them you'll find that they vary quite a bit depending on how you drop them, the surface they hit, their temperature, etc.

You can squeeze them in your hand, but until you bounce them a few times on the court it is really hard to tell how good they are.  It's a pretty subtle thing to feel, but when you are playing the game, the quality of the bounce becomes extremely evident. 

To effectively recycle tennis balls there has to be some value extracted along the way.  Yes the value of keeping the balls out of landfills is intrinsically evident but historically that has not been enough to make it happen. Let's break down this value issue further - what are all the possibilities?

1. original intended use: as a tennis ball.
Pro: can be re-pressurized with a green machine (reBounces)
Pro: Used balls have an established fair market value, selling for anywhere from .24-.51 cents/ball on places like ebay.
Pro: Balls that are not used up can be re-sold
Con: Not many players see value in the used balls sold, since only a percentage of them actually bounce well enough.
Con: sorting out which ones actually bounce good from a batch is difficult and time consuming. 
Con: re-use and re-pressurization extends the ball life but still gets thrown away later

2. Secondary uses without modification:
Dog toys, balls for non-tennis play, space fillers

3. Secondary uses with structural modification: (cuts, holes drilled, squeekers inserted, etc)
Chair leg cushions, walker leg covers, dog toys, tent post covers

4. Secondary uses with cosmetic modification: (cleaning, coloring, gluing together, etc.)
Children toys, arts & crafts, sculpture

5. Secondary uses deconstructed: (ground, shredded, pulverized)
Equestrian turf, tennis court layers, fiber-reinforced concrete and other surfaces, Landscape mulch,

6. Uses of the material components: (rubber, nylon/wool, epoxy resin)
Each of these may have value if they can be separated for less cost than the value attained

Like any other form of recycling (electronics, plastics, etc.), sorting is the first key step to isolating value from the items

The first and most value-adding stage of sorting for tennis balls is for reuse in tennis (value 1 above), so that is the focus of 2nd-Bounces.  

To produce the highest fair market value, we must identify which balls are still play-worthy, and better yet, to get the most value from each ball, how play-worthy are they?  The best criteria for play-worthiness is rebound performance.  

This assumes all the other "quality" factors are inherent in the type of balls being sorted. Ball characteristics such as size, weight, color, feel, have been well standardized.  Overall quality and durability is pretty much determined by the manufacturer brand and is selected by the supplying club to best fit their programs. Thus, all these parameters are fairly consistent within any batch of discarded indoor court balls.

What varies widely is the bounce (or rebound to use the technical term). The reason the rebound varies widely even when all the balls were purchased at about the same time, is due to the random amount of hits they endure while being used. The number of times each ball in a cart gets hit, and the amount of impact it gets hit with, is a random distribution.  Just by random chance, some balls hardly get played with, while others are beaten nearly to death.

Rebound performance of a tennis ball can only be measured one way -- by measuring how high the ball rebounds when dropped onto a legitimate hard surface. Squeezing the ball does not work. I repeat, squeeeezzzzinnnng the ball does NOT work! This is a proven fact, dont fool yourself.

So this is what we do at 2nd-Bounces. Being an engineering company, we designed a system to automate it.  Now we can do the difficult sorting task with much less effort, enough less so that the ball sales actually generate a reasonable amount of revenue to pay for the labor it takes to get it done (maintaining the facility, loading the machine, boxing balls, quality control, etc.. We can provide a job that pays much better than minimum wage).

So the Problem with Tennis Balls is not insurmountable. 2nd-Bounces is offering a great solution and we need your help to make it happen.

Sustainability Explained

Posted on November 17, 2015 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (1)

"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. 

Let me 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! Recycling businesses create jobs.

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/2nd-Bounces 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?