• Adrienne Ways

Can tennis and padel be (more) environmentally friendly ?

Updated: Apr 13

When we started writing this article, we asked ourselves one question: do you pay attention to where you buy your sporting goods ? You probably work the same way we do: you buy them from Decathlon or from your favorite sports brands.

You sort your garbage, you turn off the lamp when you leave a room, you travel by public transport or by bike, you try not to waste, you buy (sometimes) organic and/or local products, etc. And that's already great! But what if we challenged you and told you that in 2021, you could do even more ? What if in 2021, together, we made tennis and padel tennis more eco-friendly ?


Today, there are more and more eco-friendly alternatives. But what about our favorite sports? What can we do on our own scale?


Knowing that the sports industry produces a lot of waste, we are looking for different simple ways to direct our actions towards a more sustainable sport.


In the following article, we will share with you tips we found on balls, rackets, strings, (over)grips and sportswear.


TENNIS AND PADEL BALLS


Did you know that balls are made of textile felt and rubber, which means they take about 2,500 years to degrade naturally? They are indeed extremely polluting materials. Ideal would therefore be to create balls that do not wear out (or have a longer lifespan), biodegradable or recyclable balls. Wilson has already started the process with its revolutionary ball: the Triniti. It is the first environmentally friendly, high-performance tennis ball. It comes in a 100% recyclable packaging, maintains a new ball feel 4 times longer to reduce consumption and waste, and 5% of Triniti profits are donated to support global sustainability.


In addition, the Association Francophone de Tennis (AFT) in Belgium has been recycling used tennis balls and tennis ball boxes since 2017. This operation is called Tennis Solidaire. Players who have finished using their balls are invited to dispose them in cardboard containers available at nearly 250 clubs in the AFT region. The boxes and balls are collected, recycled and transformed into aggregates that are used to create sports surfaces for charitable organizations. A similar program exists in France thanks to the French Tennis Federation (FFT), which has set up the Balles Jaunes operation. Let's hope that one day the Association Francophone de Padel (AFP) in Belgium, and the padel world in general, will adopt the same approach for padel balls.

Other solutions are available to you if you wish to give a second life to your balls. For example, they can be used as new toys for your dog or a friend's dog, they can also be used to cover a tow or be placed in your washing machine to prevent your clothes from fluffing. Also consider taking them to a local animal shelter. There are many other ideas available online in the form of DIY (Do It Yourself). Finally, tennis or padel balls can also be used creatively, for example, as housing for harvest mice, the small creatures with red fur, which are endangered. They can be found in grain fields such as wheat and oats, as well as in tall grasses, hedges or reedbeds.


And you, what are your tricks to give a second life to your balls ?


TENNIS AND PADEL RACKETS


Next to the balls, there are of course the rackets. Obviously, every experienced player has at least one in his/her bag. But what to do if you only play very occasionally ? Moreover, if you have been playing for many years, there are certainly 2 or 3 old rackets lying around in your cupboards. What should you do with all those rackets that you no longer use ?


Rent your tennis or padel racket


You don't play tennis or padel tennis often? Instead of buying a racket, you could consider renting it on the website of Aliloca, a Belgian company that offers you to rent and lend all kinds of equipment very easily (you will find your happiness on Zilok or Kiwiiz for French people). Next to this online solution, many clubs have rackets for rent at the bar. Ask around, it's worth it if you only play a few times a year !


Buy a second-hand racket


If you are a regular player, you may prefer to buy a racket rather than rent one. But let's be honest: most of us are far from being a potential Nadal or Federer. Do we all really need the latest racket with the latest technology? Buying a second-hand racket will save you money on the one hand, and on the other hand give new life to one that has already proven itself. Very often, before being offered for sale, second-hand tennis rackets are checked for possible damages and/or deformations. We recommend sites such as Tennis-Point or TennisPro which offer used rackets at affordable prices and in excellent condition. Next to that, there are of course the more traditional solutions from private individuals to private individuals (unverified rackets in this case) such as specialized Facebook groups, Ebay or 2ememain.be.


Opt for an eco-responsible racket


If you still decide to buy a new racket, you should know that since 2009, Artengo, part of Decathlon, has developed a sustainable racket. This is part of their more global approach towards sustainability. It is a racket made from flax, resin and carbon fibers. In addition to being environmentally friendly, the linen racket is lighter and absorbs more vibrations when the tennis ball hits the frame. It is therefore more comfortable to use for any type of player. The company hopes to one day create a 100% recyclable racket. Alongside Decathlon, other brands such as Babolat have also started investigating more environmentally friendly fibers than the traditional graphite (a combination of carbon filaments) found in most rackets on the market.


Recycle your broken rackets (and sportswear)


If you're both a tennis enthusiast and a recycler, you might like to know that rackets can be recycled! The Terracycle company offers you to recycle your so-called "non-recyclable" waste (only valid in France and the UK for now) via their "Zero Waste Box™" service. All you have to do is order a Zero Waste box™ for sports equipment and it will be delivered directly to your home.


Donate your old rackets to the tennis school/padel of your club

If you are no longer using your old rackets, rather than letting them become dusty in your cupboards, take them to your tennis or padel school/club's. They will be happy to give them a second life with their students.


Or you can always use them as decoration!


So, tell us what kind of player you are and what solution described above could be right for you ?


THE STRINGS


We talk a lot about ball recycling, we've just talked about the recycling of rackets, but what about strings recycling ? To answer this question, we asked ourselves about the nature of the different strings. These can be natural (gut) or synthetic (nylon, polyester or kevlar).


Synthetic strings are the most widespread because they are cheaper, but they are also more polluting than natural strings. While string manufacturing companies such as Luxilon are committed to reducing their carbon footprint during production, we are unfortunately not aware of any companies that manufacture strings from recycled synthetic or environmentally friendly materials, nor are there any initiatives to recycle strings.



You know what that means, it's time to launch your start-up (or share your findings with us) !


THE (OVER-)GRIPS

The composition of the grips is generally made of elastomer but we can still find some in leather as in the past. When you buy a racket, the grip is already installed but nothing prevents you from changing it if you wish or adding an overgrip. And if you are looking for a biodegradable and environmentally friendly overgrip, the Ecogrip brand offers some. The Ecogrip decomposes naturally in the environment in a year time. As far as quality is concerned, we can make the assumption that they are as good as the traditional overgrips because many players of the ATP and WTA circuits have opted for this solution.


Have you ever tried the Ecogrip ?


PLAYERS' EQUIPMENT


Next to the balls, rackets, their strings and (over)grips, there is of course the sportswear part. And there again, there are eco-friendly alternatives that we present you below.

In the world of the little yellow ball, two giants are well known for their sustainable development movements: Adidas and Nike.


For 2021, Adidas is committed to developing its sports gear by using sustainable materials for 60% of its products. For example, the brand is working on shoes made of vegetable leather and clothing made of recycled cotton. Currently, the giant is already announcing that 60% of its products are made from recycled materials.


Besides that, Parley and Adidas have been working together for 6 years in the fight against ocean pollution. On the Adidas website, you will find many products resulting from this collaboration. They range from shoes to sportswear. Their common goal is to use 100% recycled polyester in their products by 2024. They have also created Primeblue, a high performance recycled material, designed in part from Parley Ocean Plastic, a material created from recycled plastic waste that has been collected from islands, beaches and coastlines to prevent ocean pollution.


Nike, with its "Move to Zero" movement, wants to contribute to the evolution of its production towards a future "zero carbon, zero waste". Thus, clothes bearing the label "sustainable materials" are made with at least 55% recycled materials, and shoes bearing the same label are made with at least 20% of their weight in recycled materials.


As for sports shoes, more and more eco-friendly options are coming onto the market. In 2017, the Reebok brand has taken up the challenge of creating 100% organic footwear, produced solely from plants. One year later, the challenge was successful: the soles are made of corn and castor oil and the upper part of the shoe is made from organic cotton. In 2020, the company also launched new 100% biodegradable shoes.


Despite this information, you may remain skeptical about these giants who claim to be eco-responsible and green, and tell yourself that you are never safe from greenwashing ? That's why we also went in search of smaller companies with strong eco-responsible values.


First of all, we invite you to take a look at what the start-up Spreen Athletics, founded by the young Brussels native Aloïs Echard, is doing. It offers high-performance sportswear with no impact on the planet. For their first collection, each garment was made from recycled plastic bottles. Still on this sustainable aspect, Spreen has committed to plant a tree for each garment sold, in association with the Belgian NGO Graine de Vie, which is an eco-humanitarian project of carbon offsetting, environmental protection and reforestation in Madagascar, Togo and Benin.


Outside Belgium, the WellMade company produces its clothes from recycled synthetic materials, hemp and organic cotton. We hope that you will find what you need in sportswear among these different solutions !


Finally, just like your old rackets that you don't use anymore, don't leave your old clothes in your wardrobe and never let them collect dust again. If you have old sportswear that you haven't worn for years and you want to give a second life to, we have the solution! The JBC brand offers you the opportunity to deposit your clothes (sportswear or not) in the nearest store to you. In return, the company will offer you fifty points on your customer card.


You can also donate your used and damaged clothes to Ecoconso, a company that recovers old textiles. Oxfam also offers a collection of used clothes and shoes. And finally, Nike has also developed one of the largest sports shoe recycling programs (Reuse-A-Shoe), accepting shoes from all brands and under all conditions. To contribute to this program, simply drop off your used shoes at any Nike store.


So, are you planning on opting for more eco-friendly equipment ?


In conclusion, you'll have understood that there is no shortage of solutions to make tennis and padel more eco-friendly! From ball recycling to eco-friendly clothing, linen rackets and organic shoes, there is something for everyone, and everyone can contribute at his or her own level. It's all about getting started bit by bit.


Tell us in comment what you're going to start with ?


The Bounce Team



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