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RALLY2Recycle: High school students launch tennis ball recycling at Knoch Park

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Did you know that tennis players in the U.S. use more than 125 million new tennis balls each year?  Even if some are re-used, most end up in landfills, decomposing very slowly.

As the Naperville Park District’s Green Team began to look into recycling tennis balls, the Park District’s tennis coordinator Susie Kursar let the team know that two high school students already were on it.

The project begins


Katherine Ho and Harriet Hunt

Naperville Central High School tennis players Katherine Ho and Harriet Hunt shared a concern about the large number of tennis balls being discarded. They wanted to do something to help. Placing a tennis ball recycling bin seemed to be the obvious solution. And Knoch Park tennis courts would be the perfect place to start, as home of NCHS tennis and of many of the Naperville Park District’s tennis programs.

Beginning in the spring of 2017, they researched recycling solutions and found a nonprofit company, Recycle Balls that would accept boxes of tennis balls and provide free mailing labels. The company has developed their own tennis ball recycling process in which they separate the felt from the rubber and then make a crumb rubber product for use in manufacturing.

Next, they contacted the Park District to ask about where to place a recycling bin. Park District staff advised them that the bin would need to be secure and attractive. Researching different styles of bins, they found one made by Retour Tennis that could be mounted to the fence at the Knoch Park tennis courts.


 New tennis ball recycling bin at Knoch Park tennis courts

Their next challenge was to figure out how to pay for the bin, which would cost $200. They began promoting their project and looking for sponsors and donors. Naming their project “RALLY2Recycle,” they contacted friends, neighbors and local businesses. When the Naperville Running Company and New Balance offered to donate gift cards, Katherine and Harriet posted a notice on their neighborhood’s website,, and were able to sell the gift cards to support the project. John Greene Realtor also stepped up as a sponsor, and together with a private donation, they had enough funds to purchase their first recycling bin.

The new recycling bin is installed


Katherine Ho and Harriet Hunt displaying their new tennis ball recycling bin at Knoch Park tennis courts

Park District staff installed the new recycling bin on the fence at Knoch Park tennis courts earlier this fall. Remaining on Katherine and Harriet’s to-do list was creating and mounting a colorful decal thanking their sponsors.  Graphic designer Melissa Noto offered to design the decal at no charge. The decal arrived from the printer the last full week of October, and Harriet secured it in place on Friday, October 27.



 Meanwhile, they began spreading the word and collecting tennis balls to recycle.

They received 500 balls from the NCHS boys’ tennis team and some from other conference teams. They count the balls and track them on a spreadsheet, then mail 200 at a time to Recycle Balls with a free mailing label.

They have a vision to continue and expand the recycling next year and beyond. Although Harriet is graduating next spring, they know of at least one other, younger student who is interested in helping.

“We would like to place tennis ball recycling bins at the Park District’s other tennis courts at Nike Sports Complex and DuPage River Sports Complex,” said Katherine.

How you can help

When tennis season begins next spring, save your used tennis balls and drop them off at the recycling bin at Knoch Park, located on the corner of West Street and Hillside Avenue. The recycling bin is on the fence facing West Street. (The bin will be taken down and stored for winter but will be re-installed early next spring.)

 If you have more than will fit in the bin, which holds 200, or if you would like to recycle your tennis balls before next spring, email for instructions on how to drop off the balls or arrange for them to be picked up.

Donations will help provide more bins!  If you are interested in donating or sponsoring future recycling bins, email  for details.


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