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Tip of the Week: Used Tennis Balls…At Your Service

Animal Welfare Society (AWS) in West Kennebunk, ME, serves up slightly used tennis balls in plastic muffin containers as a popular retail item in their shelter. The clever package, which sells for two dollars, has been a big hit with shelter visitors, generating over $3,000 in only 18 months. That’s all profit, since both the balls and the plastic containers are donated—now that’s a Grand Slam!

According to Bobbi Allen of AWS, “The program started when a board member, who happens to be an avid tennis player, became frustrated with the surplus of wasted, but perfectly useful, spent tennis balls.” After seeing a four-piece muffin container at a local bakery, the board member had her Eureka moment—to fill the containers with used tennis balls and sell them to benefit the shelter.  

It’s all about the marketing, folks!

What can your shelter do to increase retail sales with a simple packaging idea like AWS’ tennis ball muffins?  What items are you already selling that could use a boost with a little creative marketing?

Photo courtesy of Animal Welfare Society




what an awesome idea, love it!


an awesome idea!!!! I was always buying new tennis balls for my dogs, but these would have been excellent.
It gives me an idea to try to set that up in my own area.

However, I'm uncertain, where are the plastic 4-cup containers coming from for free? From a merchant donation? Or from the recycling center post-use?

And, I wonder, could a local person be allowed to put some sticker on the new containers at the store for them to be recycled separately for this project (even offer a free pickup of them) to keep them out of the garbage and out of the recycle stream both, so that they go specifically for this project?

I would envision, that if a local phone number or website was listed on a sticker on the container while at the store, that a consumer would buy it, then call the ph # as soon as they finish the muffins, and then someone from the project could just be out walking/bike riding daily to pick them up by appointment?

Ideally, maybe some who is on disability or on social security/pension, who needs something to do in life and a reason to get outside, but can't work a strenuous or full time job...and who has free time day or evening to be flexible with pick-up appointments....someone who would volunteer their time to have some kind of purpose in life and to prevent depression, but who isnt a money-needing job-seeker.

I would do it, I'm on disability after several surgeries and a chronic disease, and I get bored being inside all the time, and I gained so much weight. It's hard to have the desire to walk outside for exercise only if it is still an aimless walk-around. But having a reason to go walking - ie to go see people and pick up these containers, would get me both the exercise and a purpose.


Hi, Rivardau -- Thank you for your enthusiasm for the tennis ball muffin program suggested by Animal Welfare Society (AWS)—we agree it is a great way to recycle and generate needed funds for shelters! We talked to AWS and their pre-consumer plastic containers are donated by a local grocery store. Although recycling is usually the best thing, in this case, the post-consumer containers may be messy to handle. We suggest you talk with your local shelter about starting your own tennis ball muffin program and work out the details with them. It could be a match made in heaven.

-Shelters' Edge

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