Roughly 600,000,000 padel balls are produced per year around the world (in the case of tennis, this number comes to 360,000,000). This adds up to 36,000 tons of rubber each year that, in most cases, is thrown away with household waste, according to data from Pascal Box.
This is a problem in and of itself, but it’s exacerbated by the properties of materials like rubber, which takes about 100 years to break down.
Keep in mind that padel balls do not last more than three or four games. This is because, as soon as they come into contact with the atmosphere and every time they’re hit, they lose pressure until they no longer have their initial bounce. Therefore, it’s essential that we extend their usable life.
Winball, pressurisation and court maintenance
And this is what a number of companies and organisations in Spain are working on. One such company is Winball, which was born out of a dream to recycle and reuse thousands of padel and tennis balls in Spain.
How do they do it? By repressurising old balls so they recover their original bounce. More and more clubs, centres and instructors that are doing their part to curb padel’s environmental impact are getting this service.
On top of that, they save 50% on their overall annual expenditure on balls, since Winball only charges €1 for each set of repressurised balls. In addition, Winball offers a ball customisation service with screen printing on demand.
And since balls are not the only waste generated by this sport, Winball is also in charge of maintaining and renovating the padel courts at a good number of clubs in Spain. After all, they have more than 10 years of experience in artificial grass regeneration.
This also reduces the environmental impact of these materials, which are discarded after a few years. According to Winball, with proper maintenance, these sport courts can last more than a decade.
The Pascal Box Pressuriser
Another example is Pascal Box, a Spanish company that offers a modern pressuriser among its products. Thanks to this product, many padel players, coaches and schools can now extend their balls’ usable life, no matter how many games they’re used for.
These treatments won’t keep the balls from losing fuzz after each bounce or volley, but they will recover their original bounce, which is what makes them viable for practising the sport.
Recicla Pelotas de Pádel, advocating for an inclusive sport
Recicla Pelotas de Pádel, an initiative by entrepreneurs who are environmentally conscious, offers another interesting service. They repressurise balls at a very cheap price, just like Winball.
In addition, something that serves to give visibility to women’s sport, another raison d’être for this company, is that Recicla Pelotas de Pádel works hand in hand with the Wise Association to promote and highlight women’s sport.
This non-profit association carries out all kinds of activities to empower girls and young athletes from different sport clubs and schools in Spain.
No Time fights for social inclusion
The company No Time also leverages its fight to defend the environment to promote social inclusion. It’s a responsible and sustainable fashion firm that reuses rubber from balls and tyres to make “urban” style shoes.
Amongst its many projects that breathe new life into used materials, a standout is its collaboration with A la Par Foundation, an organisation that is dedicated to providing educational and job placement resources to people with disabilities. Every year, 20% of the profits from No Time goes to their treasury.
The carbon footprint left by a sport like padel forces many companies and organisations to respond accordingly. And in Spain, they’re matching the level of response that such a situation requires.
Decathlon’s double bounce
But the fight doesn’t stop there. Many other initiatives stand out, such as Decathlon‘s #DoubleRebote (Double Bounce) project, which managed to collect more than 267,600 balls used in 2019.
And what did they do with them? They recycled them and turned them into flip flops. Every time a ball was donated, a pair of flip flops was made from its materials, helping to raise awareness of the need for and benefits of the circular economy.
NTC Pádel, the sustainable club
The NTC Pádel Club, based in Catalonia, is focused on these same initiatives. In collaboration with Bown Sports & Sustainability, they recycle the used balls that are collected in the containers at the ends of the court.
Their goal: to give new life to balls making them free and in perfect condition to use in games and training sessions. This gives them the distinction of being a sustainable club, making them a model of padel ball recycling.
The circular economy and Proyecto Greenball
Although they are not exclusively focused on padel, Proyecto Greenball is like other projects responsible for mitigating the impact that these sports have on the environment. The Proyecto Greenball initiative proposes the energy recovery of used padel and tennis balls.
And how does this energy recovery work? In Greenball’s case, they incinerate the balls to take advantage of the high heating power of rubber and so convert them into energy.
In this way, they help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, promoting green awareness and creating economic benefits for many padel clubs.
The exponential growth of this sport has consequences on a global level, and a large number of companies, clubs and associations in Spain are refusing to look the other way. They’re doing everything in their power to boost the circular economy of a sport that has not yet reached its peak.