By Simone Preuss on March 05, 2011

Millions of tennis and pingpong balls get produced every year, only to be thrown away shortly after they are bought. Recycling them ensures that they don't go to waste!

Image: Mani Kordestani, used with permission

Tennis balls are probably the most difficult of any kind of sports ball to recycle, as the rubber used is not biodegradable. However, about 300 million balls are produced each year, contributing to some 20,000 metric tons of rubber waste. Just what is there to do with so many used and unwanted tennis balls? We’ve found 10 creative uses that could be easily replicated at home.

10) Mobile phone sleeve

Image: Mani Kordestani, used with permission

What better protection for your treasured iPhone than a shockproof tennis ball? This 5- x 3-inch sleeve fits most sleek cell phones and comes with a Velcro strap to hold the device in place. Form and function are clearly in sync here!

9) Bracelets

Image: Elke Munkert Design, used with permission

These tennis ball bracelets are made from anodized aluminum, old tennis ball skins and glue. They come with five different interior colors: blue, orange, purple, blue or plain silver (above). The gap in the middle guarantees that one size fits all. The tennis ball exterior is nicely accentuated by the ball’s seams — the perfect gift for avid tennis players or fans.

Image: Elke Munkert Design, used with permission

Jewelry designer Elke Hansen of Elke Munkert Design is a trained goldsmith who studied design and product design in Trier and Düsseldorf, Germany, from 1994-1995 and 1999-2003, respectively. Since 1998, she has exhibited her creations regularly at galleries and exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland.

8) Change holder

Image: Mani Kordestani, used with permission

Made from just one tennis ball, this handy change holder measures 2-3/8 x 2-1/4 inches — just enough space to hold all the loose coins that usually clutter up one’s pockets. The inside is reinforced with a soft fabric to make sure no coin is lost. We like the cross stitch on the outside and the way the tennis ball’s seams have been used as decorative edges. Here’s a model that incorporates a red zip and keeps the round shape:

Image: Mani Kordestani, used with permission

Creator Mani Kordestani collects all the tennis balls he uses from the clubs he plays at and also gets some from friends. He explains how his tennis ball reuse project started: "Being a tennis player, I came to realize that most of tennis balls get discarded after their useful life on tennis courts; so I approached this as a problem and started working on ideas that could possibly be a solution. My background in architecture and arts enabled me to come up with designs/products that are based on everyday life needs."

7) Jar opener

Image: Ed Lewis, used with permission

This jar opener is as simple as it is cute. Just cut a tennis ball along its seam and you’ll get two jar openers. The rubber inside the tennis ball gives it a perfect grip on even the toughest of metal lids.

Image: Ed Lewis, used with permission

Add a couple of dots and it even gets a face!

6) Rings

Image: Elke Munkert Design, used with permission

Like the bracelets seen above, these tennis ball rings from Elke Munkert Design are made of aluminum, glue and old tennis ball skins. While the one above looks like half of a miniature tennis ball, the one below seems to be a smaller version of the bracelet.

Image: Elke Munkert Design, used with permission

Either version is sure to turn a few heads, though — on and off the court!

5) ChapStick holder and key chain

Image: Mani Kordestani, used with permission

This ChapStick holder uses about one-half of a tennis ball and is big enough for one ChapStick, or even a bigger lipstick, which slides into a little pouch at the bottom and is secured with a piece of elastic. If ChapSticks are not your thing, you can use the holder as a simple key chain; the metal lanyard hook makes it easy to clip the holder on and off.

4) Mini bag

Image: Mani Kordestani, used with permission

This mini bag-cum-coin purse also utilizes one recycled tennis ball and is about 2-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches in size. The interior is lined with a soft fabric for extra protection. Instead of Velcro, this model uses a piece of string to close the purse. We could see old laces nicely doing the job here!

Image: Mani Kordestani, used with permission

If pure yellow is not your thing, the mini bag also comes in five different colors with hand-printed designs made using custom-made stamps.

3) Pencil pouch

Image: Mani Kordestani, used with permission

Several old tennis balls gave their lives for this pencil pouch. The handmade pouch is approximately 8 x 4 inches in size and lined inside with a navy blue fabric for extra protection and sturdiness. It's the perfect project if you're an avid tennis player or live next to a tennis court. Or, if you're a less crafty person, you can just buy this one for yourself, or for a friend who’s a tennis fan.

2) Portable iPod speaker

Image: Matt Amos, used with permission

This project is great because apart from recycling an old tennis ball, you can also find new uses for an old headphone set and any old box you have lying around at home. Add some glue, a 9V battery, a battery clip, Velcro, a small amp and two speakers, and you’re all set. First, though, you’ll have to cut the tennis ball in half and then solder the wires to the right speakers without burning the tennis ball halves.

Image: Matt Amos, used with permission

After that, it’s closing up the speakers and attaching the amp. You can follow the picture links for more detailed instructions.

1) Pingpong ball lights

Image: Dan Phiffer

These pingpong balls have been outfitted with different colored lights and then attached to a silver board. Perfect for any basement disco or a spontaneous office party. We love it!

Bonus Entry: Tennis ball tripod

Image: iectyx3c

This tennis ball tripod doesn't require too much work, and the best thing is, it can even be wall or window mounted, as shown in the image above. Then you can use your camera work for surveillance or for nature pics if you attach it to a bird feeder!

Image: iectyx3c

The tennis ball’s natural grip makes it perfect for standing next to your computer as a webcam, or even on a slippery car roof for group pictures. You can visit Instructables for some detailed guidance on how to make one yourself here.

Bonus Entry 2: Christmas tree ornament

Image: slu6alka, used with permission

Though Christmas is still far away, it does seem to creep up on us faster and faster every year. So, if you’re thinking of making your own tree ornaments, why not start now?

Image: slu6alka, used with permission

This project is really easy, and all you need is an old ping-pong ball, some glue and some old thread you might have lying around. Glue the thread onto the ball in neat rows, add a hanger and you're done! This will not only work with ping-pong balls, but also any kind of lightweight balls.

If that wasn't enough of creative fun with tennis balls, here are ten really cool furniture designs made out of recycled tennis balls.

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Simone is a writer and editor at Environmental Graffiti, an innovative green site currently looking for writers! Imagine having your work seen by up to 10 milli[...]
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