LVR Grade-12 student, Boris Oudemans, observed that way too many tennis balls were heading for the landfill, and he set about doing something about it. As part of a school leadership class, he researched opportunities for recycling them, and then approached the Nelson Tennis Club (NTC), of which he’s a member, to encourage them to take action. And they are.

“Across the world about 300 million tennis balls go to land fills creating methane and non decomposable rubber waste,” says Oudemans. “We may be a very small part of the problem here in Nelson, but we’re still a part.”

The pitch to the NTC’s board was well received. So much so that the Club has committed the full amount of the honorarium—$1,150— it received in January from the Nelson City as part of the Leadership Sustainability Award. 

“We could not think of a better way to allocate this money,” says NTC president Keith Bridger. “We want people to be active and play tennis, but we want minimise our impact on the environment as much as possible.”

Recycling tennis balls is not as simple as taking them to the transfer station. They are processed by a specialized facility that breaks them down to be used for other purposes. The cost runs about $750 for 2,000 tennis balls, or nearly 40 cents a ball.

The Club has decided to collect all the tennis balls and the plastic containers this season, so it can determine the volume produced. Oudemans approached the local Home Hardware Building Centre that donated two large recycling bins for the purpose.

“I am really excited that, collectively, we can make a small change for the good,” added Oudemans. “The rubber can be re-used for producing plastic bases for street signs, a stucco paint product, and even materials to make new tennis courts. It is cool to think that what we do here could contribute to a new court somewhere else.”

LVR student starts kick-starts recycling initiative for tennis balls