Dear Recyclebank: What can I do with old sports equipment? Is any of it recyclable? — Andrew C.
Dear Andrew: Whether you or your kids have lost interest in the sport or outgrown old equipment, there are plenty of ways it can be put to good use after you’ve retired from the game. There are several organizations that accept donations of gently used equipment, which they then pass along to kids and organizations who don’t have the means to buy their own (after all, all those balls, protective gear, and other accoutrements don’t come cheap!).
“Donating sports equipment offers it a second chance to touch lives, rather than resigning it to a landfill forever,” says Robbie Palmisano, a Duke University student who founded All Kids Should Play in Baltimore, MD, when he was a high school senior. “If someone donates just one basketball, that’s twenty more kids who can play the sport of basketball.” The benefits of giving less privileged kids the opportunity to play sports, he says, include learning cooperation, trust, and discipline, which leads to a greater likelihood of succeeding in school and a lessened chance of getting involved in dangerous activities.
The donations shipped to or received locally by All Kids Should Play are distributed to groups and organizations that are in need of the equipment. Most equipment is welcomed, with the exception of football helmets (for liability reasons) and skiing equipment (for lack of demand as well as storage issues).
Palmisano says that anything that cannot be used is forwarded to the local recycling center, which breaks down the parts into recyclable materials.
Another similar organization —also founded by teens — is Let’s Play it Forward in Westchester, NY. They accept shipments from all over the U.S. and are particularly in need of jump ropes, Frisbees, Wiffle balls and bats, and ball pumps and mitts. The gear received is donated to organizations in need across the U.S. and abroad. You could also consider sending that gear to Leveling the Playing Field in Silver Spring, MD, or Pitch In For Baseball, in Harleysville, PA.
If you’d rather keep your gear within the community, a post on a community message board or a site like Craigslist or Freecycle might find you an eager recipient. You might even make a few bucks by selling it to Play It Again Sports or another sports resale shop.
If your gear is not in usable condition, you might be able to recycle it, although some equipment is hard to recycle because it is comprised of mixed materials. Bike helmets or other kinds of helmets might be able to be repurposed or recycled. Uniforms can be contributed to a textiles recycling facility. And there’s even a recycling center for tennis balls that have lost their bounce!
With all these options, your sports gear just might be able to stay in play, rather than being relegated to the landfill.