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Half-a-ton of used tennis balls find a new life through project

Maui Tennis Ball Recycling, with support from Maui County’s Department of Environmental Management Recycling Grant, concluded a successful year of a tennis ball recycling pilot project. The recycling grant provided funds to purchase the dedicated collection bins at three county park facilities: Wells, KCC and Kula. In addition, the grant covered the cost of shipping the balls to the Mainland for one year.

Even though the grant has ended, Maui Tennis Ball Recycling is committed to carry on the recycling effort and seeks continued and expanded financial support from local tennis players and businesses.

From July 2018 through June 2019, a total of 7,043 used tennis balls were collected and shipped to the Mainland, where they found a new life as rubber crumbs used in the construction of new tennis courts. This half-a-ton of used tennis balls represents nondecomposable, methane-producing rubber waste, which did not end up in the Maui landfill.

Most people don’t know that a good tennis player will use three tennis balls per match and then discards them. A growing number of players are starting to recognize that this is a significant environmental problem. Living on a small island with limited amount of landfill space makes this recycling effort an even more pressing matter.

Panna Speas Cappelli of Maui Hands Inc., an avid tennis player and supporter, put it this way: “We really need to start recycling all tennis balls, worldwide. A couple years ago, I spoke personally with USTA Chairman and President Katrina Adams about forming a nationwide tennis ball recycling program and she advised starting locally. When Karuna Santoro started a Maui program the following year, I helped send the first box of balls to a Mainland recycling company. They had never received a shipment of balls from so far away.”

Giovanni Steven Cappelli of Casanova Italian Restaurant and Deli, added,” We need to develop awareness in everything we do, every box we open, every plastic we throw away. The pleasure of popping that new can of balls will be guiltless, when you know that those balls will be recycled and not just going into our landfill. Let’s make sure that our grandkids will be able to play tennis as well. Recycle those balls!”

For more information or to contribute to the project, contact Karuna Santoro at karunasantoro@gmail.com.