Cleantech Open winner reBounces serves another ace
I just read an interesting trivia tidbit: 95,000 tennis balls are used at the U.S. Open. Have you ever wondered how long a tennis ball lasts, or what happens to it when it's retired?
Former tennis pro Cannon Fletcher thought a lot about this and decided there's a need for a tennis ball recycling program. He took his idea to the Cleantech Open in 2012 with a clever invention called the Green Tennis Machine, which puts air back into tennis balls to extend their life and divert them away from landfills. The machine was an instant hit: Cannon's company, reBounces, secured BNP Paribas as a partner.
Recently, I spoke with Cannon about another step in the evolution of his idea: a resting place for old tennis balls that have bounced their last bounce.
Tim Cox: How did your participation in the 2012 Cleantech Open pave the way for commercial opportunities?
Cannon Fletcher: We had been selling our tennis ball repressurization technology for less than 12 months (with fewer than 40 clients) when we entered the Cleantech Open. Reaching the finals and winning the South-Central Region, combined with all the work, business model iterations, and other parts of the accelerator really validated what we were doing and affirmed we were "onto something." The mentorship and time numerous individuals put into our company is priceless.
What have been the highlights of 2014-2015 for Rebounces?
A series of firsts: We finalized our partnership with APT Laykold & Ace Surfaces to commercialize the incorporation of recycled tennis balls into court surfacing (this is the first time anyone has done this in the world!); we topped 300 commercial tennis ball repressurization clients; we celebrated our 7th year of partnership with BNP Paribas for tennis ball recycling at the BNP Paribas Open (this is the second-largest tournament in the USA after the US Open, with around 360,000 attendees, and it was the first tournament in North America to recycle tennis balls); and lastly we collected tennis balls from more than 2,000 individuals and organizations.
Looking ahead, what are your plans for 2016?
We're launching a personal size Green Tennis Machine —30- and 60-ball volume models— that are targeted at the one million frequent players, high school coaches, and independent teaching pros in USA. We plan to sell this overseas as well. And we're continuing our tennis ball recycling efforts, with a lofty goal of recycling one million balls in 12 months.
And the story continues. Here's Cannon's most recent play:
A Fitting End (and Resting Place) for Old Tennis Balls
reBounces announces a partnership with Ace Surfaces and Advanced Polymer Technology (manufacturer of Laykold, the official surface of the Miami Open since 1984) that will bring the world’s first complete all-tennis recycling solution for the more than 130 million tennis balls consumed every year in the United States. Tennis balls that have bounced their last on the court will now leave a legacy for the bounce of future generations of tennis balls as they can now be ground up and incorporated as a component in tennis court construction and resurfacing.
LITTLE ROCK, ARK. AUGUST 28, 2015: reBounces announces a partnership with Ace Surfaces and Advanced Polymer Technology (manufacturer of Laykold, the official surface of the Miami Open since 1984) that will bring the world’s first complete all-tennis recycling solution for the more than 130 million tennis balls consumed every year in the United States. Tennis balls that have bounced their last on the court will now leave a legacy for the bounce of future generations of tennis balls as they can now be ground up and incorporated as a component in tennis court construction and resurfacing. And the surfaces are the best in the business, combining excellent playability with durability, while offering a shock-absorption that is unmatched, even by clay courts.
Over 325 million balls are produced worldwide each year. So, the question that has always nagged tennis enthusiasts and environmentalists alike is what do we do with all those unwanted tennis balls? Tennis balls are only used for a few minutes in professional matches before being replaced with new ones. They last a bit longer for recreational players and tennis instructors, and though some are repurposed for dog toys, chair and walker legs and the like, virtually all tennis balls eventually find their way into the waste stream.
And that’s where the reBounces mission began. In 2008, as the company began preparing to launch their patented Green Tennis Machine - a bulk tennis ball re-pressurization system, reBounces launched the first national tennis ball recycling campaign. Along with their commercial clients, world-class tournaments such as the BNP Paribas Open and the Bank of the West Classic, and thousands of tennis ball recycling partners, over 9 million tennis balls have been reused and recycled to date. “Forming a partnership with reBounces is very exciting for us and we applaud their green mission,” says Andreas Schulze Ising, President and CEO of Advanced Polymer Technology - the parent company of Laykold surfaces. “It’s time for the tennis industry to wake up and be a part of the solution.”
“Our mission has always been to provide a cradle to grave solution for tennis balls,” says reBounces co-founder Cannon Fletcher who spearheaded the project along with Franz Fasold of Ace Surfaces. “Our re-pressuring technology allows our clients the opportunity to give tennis balls 2 or 3 extra lives, but at the end of the cycle you still end up with tennis balls that are beaten up and have no useful purpose. Now by putting those unwanted balls into tennis courts, we are providing an appropriate and final resting place.”
Up to 10,000 tennis balls are incorporated into a single cushioned court surface and can provide a 21% force reduction. By lessening the impact traditional hard courts have on a player's joints, these courts will extend the tennis careers of players of all abilities, protect young players whose bodies are not fully developed, and perhaps pull a few seasoned players out of a too early retirement.
“Many years of ideas, discussions, trials and product development culminate in these high performance tennis courts,” said Franz Fasold, owner of Ace Surfaces and the mastermind behind the implementation of the recycled tennis ball courts. “The Laykold Masters 5 and Laykold Masters 8 are designed to be world class and the systems can be installed as new construction or overlay existing, cracked tennis courts.”
Ace Surfaces will install the first of the Tennis Ball Courts at Tenafly Racquet Club in Tenafly, NJ at the end of August. Says Gordon Uehling, Founder and Managing Director of Tenafly Racquet Club, “We are extremely excited about the new Laykold Masters 5 courts we are installing at the Tenafly Racquet Club. We love being the first tennis facility in the country with tennis courts that are partially made out of recycled tennis balls. Those that find hard courts to be difficult on their hips, knees and back will be pleasantly surprised by the difference the surface will have on their body. We hope to see other clubs in the country follow our lead in making the sport more enjoyable while helping the environment.”
About Advanced Polymer Technology (APT)
From the London Olympic stadiums to your own backyard, we provide people around the world with safe, reliable, and high-performing protective and recreational products. We continue to improve and expand our product line to keep up with the highest industry standards and, more importantly, the needs of our customers. With two ISO-certified manufacturing facilities and four global sales offices, the APT Group services the needs of the construction and chemical industries worldwide. APT utilizes its ISO 9001 Quality Management System to constantly review and improve its business procedures.
About Ace Surfaces
Ace Surfaces is revolutionizing the tennis courts you play on by creating, implementing and installing cushion shock pads using recycled tennis balls. Founded in 1993, Ace Surfaces set out to raise the standard in sporting and playing surfaces. Installing a higher quality sport surface system that considers the bodies of athletes, growing children and older tennis clientele are a large part of Ace Surfaces planning and designing of its surfaces. Quality, innovation and performance can be expected of Ace Surfaces sports surfaces, whether it be a tennis court, basketball court, futsal court or any sport surface installation.
Since, 2008 reBounces has been a leader in green tennis technology. The patented Green Tennis Machine process is a bulk tennis ball re-pressurization system that allows tennis facilities to extend the life of their practice balls and increase their bottom line. The company also plans to soon launch a Mini Green Tennis Machine with a size and price point targeting individual tennis enthusiasts and coaches alike. reBounces is also the first company to offer a free tennis ball recycling program for facilities and individuals in the continental United States who need to dispose of tennis balls responsibly.
How to Recycle Your Tennis Balls
Individuals, clubs or organizations can simply collect 200 balls, request a pre-paid shipping label at tennisballrecycling.com, and send the box of tennis balls to reBounces. The balls are then sorted and consolidated prior to their final trip to be ground. The ground up tennis balls are incorporated into the revolutionary cushion indoor/outdoor sports surfacing systems: Laykold Masters 5 and Laykold Masters 8. These systems can be installed as new construction or overlay existing, cracked tennis courts. Further details at http://www.tennisballrecycling.com