Renewaballs have a 29% lower Environmental Footprint than regular Tennis Balls – This is how they do it

5,5 million tennis balls are disposed of in the Netherlands every year, resulting in the loss of many valuable resources that could be reused. Quite a shame- Renewaball thought. So they took the opportunity to make this business more circular. Renewaball created a sustainable tennis ball that exists out of 30% recycled material- and calculated their environmental footprint to prove it.

The Challenge

Renewaball already knew that sustainability was at the heart of their products- but wanted the actual data to prove it. So they came to Ecochain with the question to measure and compare the Renewaball’s environmental impact compared to that of a regular tennis ball.

The Outcome

The biggest environmental impact hotspot for the Renewaball is its raw materials which account for nearly 70% of their total environmental impact. With a footprint of 0,41 kg *CO₂-eq, the Renewaball has an impact reduction of 0,17 kg CO₂-eq compared to a regular tennis ball with 0,58 kg CO₂-eq.

Renewaballs have a 29% lower Environmental Footprint than regular Tennis Balls – This is how they do it5 min read

Positive environmental impact can be achieved through even the smallest of items- especially if the sum of these items is significant. This is exactly the case when it comes to tennis balls. Annually, 5,5 million Dutch tennis balls end up in incinerators. Imagine the positive effect if those 5,5 million tennis balls would be properly recycled.

Meet the responsible tennis ball

Renewaball is the first tennis ball that’s made from recycled tennis balls. Therefore, it can be seen as quite a milestone regarding circular innovation within the sports industry. 

Renewaball collects these old tennis balls with collection bins at several tennis courts. The placing of these collection bins and the use of the Renewaballs is an initiative encouraged by- and initiated in the World Tennis Tournament Rotterdam Ahoy (2021) and their head-sponsor ABN AMRO. 

Image 1. The Renewaball collection bin for used tennis balls. Source: Renewaball.

How it works

The Renewaball uses an innovative process that takes apart used tennis balls into clean, separate parts of felt and rubber which are used for the production of the Renewaball. 

Where a traditional tennis ball does not contain any recycled material, the Renewaball is made out of >30% recycled material.

And the best part: not only their own Renewaballs are recycled, but also traditional tennis balls are being collected and re-used. Win-win right?

Image 2. The production process of a Renewaball. Source: Renewaball.

The Environmental Impact of Renewaball

Renewaball already knew that sustainability was at the heart of their products- but wanted the actual data to prove it. So they came to Ecochain with the question to measure and compare the Renewaball’s environmental impact compared to that of a regular tennis ball.

Methodology 

A comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was performed for the Renewaball and the ‘business as usual’ alternative. Primary data was used for the production impacts and EcoInvent served as the primary secondary data. We were able to identify the Renewaball’s main impact reduction points compared to a regular, 0% recycled tennis ball. 

The results in this case study are partially anonymized and summarized for illustration. If you want to learn more, please contact our specialist team.

Results

The Life Cycle Assessment showed that the environmental footprint of a Renewaball was significantly lower than that of a regular tennis ball. To be specific- 29% lower.

With a footprint of 0,41 kg *CO₂-eq, the Renewaball has an impact reduction of 0,17 kg CO₂-eq compared to that of a regular tennis ball with 0,58 kg CO₂-eq (Image 2). 

*CO₂-eq = carbon footprint

Image 3. The environmental impact of a Renewaball vs. a regular tennis ball.

The biggest changemaker: A take back system

The biggest impact reduction point when comparing the Renewaball with a regular tennis ball is the recycling process of the used Renewaballs that are collected through a take back system (End of life phase).

We already know that recycling is very important. But when it comes to Renewaball it entails a significant impact reduction of at least 0,134 kg CO₂-eq per Renewaball (image 4) compared to the incineration process of a regular tennis ball.

Image 4. Environmental impact per Life Cycle Phase of the Renewaball vs. a regular tennis ball. 

Transportation

Where a traditional tennis ball uses wool from New Zealand that is transported to England. The Renewaball uses wool from Norway and the United Kingdom. 

Because of this decision- the distance for retrieving materials for a regular tennis ball is on average 6 times more than the distance for materials used for the production of the Renewaball.

However, although this is a large difference in transportation distance, this doesn’t have a large significant effect on the Renewaball’s overall impact reduction (>1%), as can be seen in image 3 and 4. 

Raw materials

The biggest environmental impact hotspot for the Renewaball is its raw materials which account for nearly 70% of their total environmental impact (image 3).

And that’s because the main ingredient for the Renewaball is wool (86%). The reason for this high impact is that just like other livestock, sheep cause a high Greenhouse Gas (GHG) impact, mainly related to methane emissions. 

Renewaball is making a conscious tradeoff to reduce microplastics related to Nylon -which is not present in the Renewaball- and the increased GHG emissions due to the higher wool content. In the future, Renewaball wants to use recycled wool to further reduce the GHG impact related to wool. 

The future is bright

Now that Renewaball understands its environmental footprint, we can safely say that the Renewaball is good news and holds a bright future. It initiates sustainable change and impact in the sports industry by offering tennis players an alternative, more sustainable option to play with.  

Remember when we said, “Imagine the positive effect if those 5,5 million tennis balls would be properly recycled?”. Well, with the Renewaball you would have an impact reduction of 0,17 kg CO₂-eq per ball (0,1764 not rounded off). 

So, let’s do the math. 5,5 million tennis balls x 0,1764 kg CO₂-eq = 970.200 CO₂-eq reduction per year.

Seems like a great sustainable way to play your favorite sport.