New York City recycling facilities receive 1,200 bowling balls each year

Sims Municipal Recycling in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood is the country's largest recycling facility. And as Curbed recently explained, they've been overwhelmed by unrecyclable bowling balls for years:

When Tom Outerbridge, who is the facility's general manager, started at Sims more than 15 years ago, he started rescuing the wayward balls. He very quickly discovered that he could not keep up, because Sims gets an average of three to four bowling balls a day, or roughly 1,200 per year. It was like "walk[ing] on the beach for the first time," Outerbridge says, "and you're like, 'Oh, look at this shell, it's amazing!' before you realize there are shells everywhere."


It's not clear who exactly is throwing out all these bowling balls. Sims only takes in residential recyclables, so they're not coming in bulk from bowling alleys. And professional bowlers are too well-versed in the science (and sales pitch) behind their balls to think they're recyclable. "I noticed a lot of them had quite small holes," Outerbridge says, suggesting they were the outgrown detritus of "kids who dreamed they were going to be pro bowlers." Kara Napolitano, education and outreach coordinator at Sims, speculates the adult-size balls are pulled out of cobwebbed attics and basements throughout the five boroughs.

The rest of the article goes into some weirdly fascinating detail about bowling ball manufacturing processes and other weirdly wonderful surprises of waste management in New York City. While some bowling balls do indeed incorporate materials such as plastics and glass, the separation process would be far too costly to make them worth recycling. It's even too expensive just to grind them into asphalt.

No, You Can't Recycle a Bowling Ball (But People Sure Keep Trying) [Eleanor Cummins / Curbed]

Image: Atomic Taco / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)