“Kicking” the Carbon Footprint of Soccer Balls

From his historic victory Olympiakos In the final of the European Conference League, until Euro 2024 in Germany and Olympic Games in paris ball it is in the center of summer.

But while the “round goddess” captivates crowds in stadiums, companies and scientists are trying to save her from the carbon footprint that accompanies her from construction to the goal post net.

Efforts have recently ignited, particularly in France amid Paris’ commitment to host the greenest Olympic Games.

In fact, Simon Mützler, founder of Nantes-based Rebond, has been working on this goal for many years.

It started 15 years ago with a serious market research for the most popular soccer balls in the world.

Most of them are made from petrochemical products.

“The outer layer is PVC or PU, two petrochemical products. As for the foam layer underneath, it depends on the lab, but it’s made of polymer materials as the third layer, the inner lining,” Simon explains to Les Echos.

“A valve used only for inflation is sometimes made of rubber.”

In short, today’s soccer ball is nothing more than a pile of plastic.

The intermingling of multiple materials makes them impossible to recycle.

Meanwhile, the lack of national or European regulations in this regard creates risks.

Today, the materials contained in a soccer ball contain substances that have been documented to be responsible for health problems such as endocrine disorders.

The goal of the young French businessman – and not only him – is to use biological and recyclable materials and replace them with more environmentally friendly ones.

Balls from soybean and wheat residues

An estimated 27,000 tons of waste are produced worldwide each year.

According to figures from the French sports federation Ufolep or the French Ecological Transition Organization (Ademe), each one weighs around 450 grams and can emit between 2 and 7 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Simon Mützler estimates that amateur clubs in France alone – about 15,000 – use a million soccer balls each year.

That’s not even counting those used in professional leagues or purchased by individuals.

The French company has already moved forward with the design and production of its sustainable alternative.

“The customs, foam and contact points are made from just one material, 84% bio-based plastic from soy or wheat crop residues,” explains Simon.

The “bladder” inside is made of natural rubber and is easily removed.

The result, he says, is that the end product is completely recyclable, and the materials can be reused to make a new ball rather than end up in landfills.

Organic raw materials are produced in France.

Two other Rebond facilities are located in Punjab, India.

Simon had been taken there during his initial investigation.

Until the 2010s and China’s takeover of the market, it was the world’s main soccer ball production area.

According to the company, the final product complies with FIFA specifications.

After it was first hit with at least 2,000 shots, it went through a grueling inspection process, with the ball being inspected from every angle.

“It’s a win-win story,” said the French businessman.

Last year was the first profitable year for Rebond with sales of 250,000 euros.

It’s a ball and it’s spinning

The next goal of Simon Mützler is the industrial production and large-scale marketing of ecological ball.

“We want to complete the recycling cycle, taking the material out of our balls to make new ones,” he says.

“We want to sign contracts with big groups so that our products can be widely distributed.”

“And we want to get a FIFA license so that our balls can be used in official competitions.”

The next step will be to extend sustainable production to rugby and basketball balls, for which polymer materials are currently used.

In this regard, one of the most polluting sports is tennis.

During the two weeks of the Roland Garros tournament alone, more than 50,000 small yellow balls, mostly made of rubber, are used.

“Pro players have to change them almost every hour because they hit so hard that the felt wears out very quickly,” explains Bounce co-founder Gregory Bergurian, and the smaller balls lose pressure.

A Belgian startup that wants to make tennis more ecological.

Each yellow ball made of rubber takes an average of 2,500 years to decompose in nature.

Recycled ones are only a small fraction of the number used by tennis players.

It is estimated that 17 million yellow balls are used at this level every year in France.

It is estimated that a small percentage is disposed of in special waste bins distributed by the French Tennis Federation to tennis clubs.

The collected is processed, turned into rubber pellets and material for the construction of floors in sports fields.

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