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Howard County launches tennis ball recycling initiative

Howard County launches tennis ball recycling initiative
At a tennis camp in 2013, Andrews Zhong, 8, of Ellicott City, at Centennial Park West in Ellicott City. (Jen Rynda/BSMG file)

The characteristics of a good tennis ball are pretty simple: yellow, fuzzy and bouncy. But what happens to tennis balls when they fall flat?

In Howard County, Bureau Chief for Parks and Program Services John Marshall said that while a few may be found on the bottom of chair legs or in dogs’ jaws, most wind up in landfills.

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The county’s Department of Recreation and Parks is launching an initiative to recycle discarded tennis balls through the nonprofit RecycleBalls.

Beginning April 1, a bin will be placed at the west and north tennis courts at Centennial Park in Ellicott City to collect discarded balls; each bin can hold up to 200 balls.

When the bins are full, the balls will be shipped to the Vermont-based nonprofit, where they will be frozen, the felt covering removed and given new life as rubber “crumbs,” used as surfacing on areas such as tennis courts. Marshall said none of the crumbs will be used in Howard County however, as the county does not work with RecycleBalls to order its synthetic surfacing.

“What we’re trying to do is try to keep items out of the landfill that don’t need to go in the landfill,” Marshall said. “And when we saw this program was available to us, we thought this would be a great initiative to pilot this program to see if tennis players would respond and I think they will.”

The program has been in the works since this past fall, Marshall said, and each bin cost the county $189, The postage to send the boxes of used balls has been prepaid by RecycleBalls, which has as its slogan, “Yellow is the new Green.”

If the program is successful, Marshall said the department plans to expand it to all 60 of its tennis courts. He said he’d be pleased if the two bins can collect 1,000 balls by the end of the fall season.

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