The best way to recycle a functional golf ball is to find an organization that will reuse or refurbish it.
Many golf courses are making strides toward greening their facilities. Programs such as the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf help them create better habitats for birds and other wildlife, conserve water and use fewer pesticides and other chemicals.
Want to do your part? There is one big thing every golfer can do to make his or her game more eco-friendly: Recycle golf balls.
There are many businesses that refurbish the tiny white balls and sell them for reuse. Be sure to buy some of those used golf balls yourself — demand for recycling products is the biggest factor that makes recycling possible. Beyond sport, golf balls can also come in handy for craft projects.
What are golf balls made of?Golf balls have two main parts: the core and the cover. The core, which makes up most of the ball, is constructed of rubber or (less commonly) liquid. The cover is either a rubber-like material called Balata or a specific type of plastic called Surlyn. The Balata covers are intended for more experienced golfers, while beginners are likely to do better with the Surlyn-covered balls.
Golf balls typically have tiny indentations, or dimples, all over their surface. Early golf ball manufacturers found that imperfections in their balls helped them travel farther and spin better, so they started adding a series of dimples. The rest is history.
The game of golf dates all the way back to 15th-century Scotland, and golf balls have been made of a variety of materials since that time. The earliest golf balls, made in the Netherlands, were wooden. Scottish balls, known as “feather balls,” had feathers in the core and white-painted leather for the cover. For a short time golf balls were made of gutta-percha gum, a sap from Sapodillo and Bully trees found in Asia. The first rubber-and-plastics balls were made in the early 20th century and have been the standard ever since.
How to recycle golf ballsYou will find that curbside recycling programs and your local recycling centers typically do not accept golf balls (or most other types of sporting goods, for that matter). That is because there is no true way to recycle a golf ball.
However, there are multiple companies that put golf balls back to use. Knetgolf is one example. According to its website, the company cleans reusable balls, then sorts them, grades them according to their quality and packages them for sale. Customers can buy their favorite brands, including Titleist, TaylorMade and Nike, on Knetgolf’s website.
Balls in rougher shape can be refurbished by sanding off the top layer of finish, reapplying a logo and refinishing them. This process also allows Knetgolf to create custom balls with your company name, logo or even someone’s picture.
To prove refurbished golf balls are a viable alternative for golfers, Knetgolf sent their used product to an independent testing company to be trialed against brand new balls. The testing company found that the used golf balls were nearly as good as new (and good enough that only a top professional golfer was likely to notice the difference). More details about Knetgolf’s study are available here.
Sell golf balls to refurbishers, golf courseMost companies that refurbish golf balls will only accept them in very large quantities. However, the website for Golf Gear USA says it will buy them by the hundreds. Save up your golf balls as long as you can, then send Golf Gear USA an email to see if they are interested.
If you have a small number of golf balls you may be better off contacting a local golf course or driving range. Many of them are interested in old golf balls that their customers can use for practice swings. Call around to facilities in your area to see which are interested and whether they purchase them or accept them at no charge.
Play It Again Sports, which sells used sports equipment, sometimes buys used golf balls. It is a national company, so see if there is a location near you. You can also look for another retail outlet that sells secondhand sporting goods.
If all those options fail, you can try selling small quantities of golf balls on eBay, Craigslist, at garage sales or at flea markets.
If you are willing to give your old golf balls away, see if a local high school golf club or a nonprofit sports organization can use them. Some thrift stores sell used sporting goods and may be willing to take golf balls off your hands.