Rohin Inani recycles tennis balls to create ‘green gold’

How a junior partnered with a nonprofit to install bins at the tennis courts for discarded balls

Junior+Rohin+Inani+poses+next+to+his+two+recycling+bins+for+discarded+tennis+balls.

Nick Bonacorsi

Junior Rohin Inani poses next to his two recycling bins for discarded tennis balls.

By Matthew Yoshimoto, Monta Vista High School

After picking up one of the many torn, dirt-encrusted and misshapen balls scattered across the tennis courts at MVHS, junior Rohin Inani heads to the recycling bin filled with other defective balls that would have otherwise been discarded. Having been on the MVHS tennis team both his freshman and sophomore year, he realized that over 200 balls go to waste every season, prompting him to seek a more eco-friendly solution.

“This leads to a lot of wastage and I wanted to solve that,” Rohin said. “I definitely wanted to take a greener side to tennis instead of throwing away all these tennis balls every single season. The initiative came from the idea of just leaving less [of an] imprint on the world.”

At the beginning of the school year, Rohin researched nonprofit organizations and found that Recycleballs best fit his mission to reuse and recycle tennis balls. It is also partnered with Wilson, a well-known tennis brand, and offers a nationwide high school program. After coordinating with Athletic Director Nick Bonacorsi to get funding for the project, Rohin obtained two recycling containers from the program, which he placed in front of the tennis courts and gym at MVHS. He is responsible for checking these containers on a weekly basis to empty them.

One of the two recycling bins that junior Rohin Inani installed hangs outside the tennis courts at MVHS. Photo by Matthew Yoshimoto

Once the bins reach the quota of 200 balls, Rohin sends the tennis balls to a recycling facility so that they can be repurposed for dog owners or ground into rubber product, dubbed “green gold” by the nonprofit, which is used to make tennis court surfaces. Rohin says he is already noticing players utilizing the bins he installed. 

Bonacorsi first became aware of Rohin’s idea in an email, and after discussing the steps to make the project become a reality, Bonacorsi believes Rohin’s goal is “a pretty obvious and simple change that is for everyone’s interests.” 

“[The project is] great — he’s very ambitious,” Bonacorsi said. “He saw the need for something as a tennis player and found a way to fix it, which is fantastic. The more we can recycle, the more we can reuse athletic equipment, so this was an obvious win for us as a school.”

Although there was an upfront cost to start installing the bins, both Rohin and Bonacorsi felt it was necessary to partner with Recycleballs so the recycling bin would look official, courtesy of the Wilsons logo plastered on the side. Both felt the process was straightforward, which Rohin attributes to the program’s sizable experience with other high school teams. 

Junior Rohin Inani created this flyer to hang at the MVHS tennis courts.

While Rohin’s family originally proposed going to the city with his project, he decided to first test it at MVHS. He hopes to eventually expand to other schools in the district. His father, Anand Inani, helps him brainstorm ideas and views this initial success as a “good starting point.”

Anand shares that Rohin is “always on the lookout” to see how he can contribute to the environment. He also believes this project has the potential to significantly benefit the community, as many dog owners and casual tennis players like himself would be glad to use these recycled and repurposed tennis balls. 

“Based on this positive response from the school and the community, I think this is a great idea and a great project to expand forward,” Rohin said. “I would recommend you guys to come and check it out, and if you guys see any lone balls around, [you] should definitely put it in the recycling container because it’ll go to good use.”

This story was originally published on El Estoque on October 20, 2021.