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Bellevue teen recycles thousands of tennis balls

A Bellevue teen has worked with the non-profit RecycleBalls to keep 3,400 tennis balls out of landfills.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — At Bellevue's Edgebrook Tennis Club there's a sort of rhythm from those bouncing yellow balls. The rooms echo with a cacophony of racquets and volleys in sync with that little yellow sphere. 

But what happens it stops bouncing just right? That was the question Derya Gurbuz wondered one night. 

“I was having a conversation with my dad, and we were talking about what happens to tennis balls after they lose their bounce,” said Gurbuz, a 17-year-old senior at Sammamish High School. “So we did some research, and it turns out most of them go into landfills, and each one takes over 400 years to decompose."

That's that how she found out about RecycleBalls, a non-profit based in Vermont, which grinds them up and turns them into something called green gold. 

“It's like that squishy, artificial turf that you see. The green gold is incorporated into that,” she said.

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Gurbuz enlisted help from her parents to place bins at Edgebrook and Sammamish and Bellevue high schools. Once they’re full, they seal them up and mail them off. Since April, she's sent 3,400 balls to Vermont instead of the garbage. 

Gurbuz said it feels good to be helping. 

“It makes me feel like I'm hugging the planet, one ball at a time,” she said.

She’s supposed to graduate in the spring but hopes to continue the tennis ball recycling. 

Gurbuz encourages others to take on the project in their communities and hopes her tennis ball recycling inspires others to look around and figure out little ways to keep things out of landfills.

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