Curbed has a fantastic feature on the problem of old bowling balls. They're discarded on a daily basis—one NYC recycler receives 3-4 each day—and being made of thermoset plastic, they can't easily be melted and are thus considered unrecyclable. Breaking them up for use in asphalt is possible, but too expensive. And I didn't know this, but bowling professionals use "reactive" balls designed to absorb oil from the lane surface to improve their performance. These balls become saturated with oil and go "bad" quickly—pros can go through up to 200 balls a year!
Photo by Persnickety Prints on Unsplash
Some people use them for yard art…
Top 15 DIY Garden Globes & Gazing Balls Tutorials & Ideas
…but that's got its limits.
Is there any practical use you can think of for them? I might be able to use them for landscaping—if they weren't spherical and predisposed to roll away from the mulch beds I'd like to encircle with them. I'd also love to see what happens when I unexpectedly run over a bowling ball with the mower.
Photo by Persnickety Prints on Unsplash
Or maybe we could paint them cartographically, turning them into globes to donate to schools. Ah, that might be a hard sell: "Free globes. They each weigh between 6 and 16 pounds, have three holes in them, and are too small for children to read."
Maybe there's a way to bond handles to them, to turn them into kettlebells?
Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash
Speaking of workout aids, Johnny Di Santis, a fitness coach who runs True Rival Fitness, has his own bowling ball application:
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I actually think that might be the best bet. Fitness crazes are a great way to convince people that they need these dedicated objects.
Got any better ideas?
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Paint them to look like soccer balls and gently roll them out into a known foot ball field and watch the magic lol just kidding
1. Use as décor material by painting fluorescent colour.
I think we could use them as street barriers.
This is a tutorial on how to make a bowl from one...
Effective recycling bowling balls is best done by using the bowling balls as footings, raw material, and art. If an easy way to distribute bowling balls were developed, hobbyist wood and metal lathe workers would eat up vast amounts of discarded bowling balls on their lathes. The spherical geometry combined with heft makes bowling balls ideal for making feet for outdoor furniture and movable stands like bicycle stands. Slicing the bowling balls in half is easily done for making feet that are stable and attractive.
A classmate at RISD made a jig to saw them in to hemispheres, then again into quarters. They were bookends.
I'm all for the reef reinforcement idea. Makes sense.
Wouldn't they be useful in large piles for underwater reefs to help maintain shelter for fish and other aquatic life.
I like your landscaping idea - maybe if they can easily be split in half?
With a new paint job they would make great gifts for Flat Earthers...
toss them at people who order frappe latte smoothie cake-pie delight drinks in line in front of you when all you want is a coffee ?
Drill aa hole through them use them in industrial conveyer belts as the rollers
Rolling away is easily solved: the discarded balls already have finger holes and a rebar stake likely fits the largest of these. Put one at each corner of planted beds to prevent dragging the hose across the plants. Protect corners from car tires by sinking that stake into concrete. A bowling ball might be a little aggressive as a parking stop in a garage but I bet it would work.
Use them as filler for non-load-bearing concrete slabs. A similar project was described in the article here: https://www.dezeen.com/2019/11/23/reduction-concrete-plastic-bubbles-enables-cobiax/
I’m a retired physics teacher, but back in the day I would have grabbed a few of these for experiments and demos…
Halloween. Permanent pumpkins. Fit rods into the three holes to create sort of a tripod. Carve and decorate and fit them with LEDs.
If they can be broken into something resembling gravel, you've got a use for hardscaping and other outdoor decorations. I, for one, would love an unexpected splash of colour — and some upcycling cred to boot — around my patio.
They could also be caged and used as barricades, similar to how natural stone is used. Maybe somewhat less dense, but still would require heavy machinery to move.
The same cages could be tossed off-shore to use as reef starters. Not sure if barnacles will stick to the surfaces per se, but something tells me nature will find a way. (Assuming they're inert and non-toxic to begin with)
Are they hollow?
Make a positioning table! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OnF6_V28DM I actually started down this road myself, and to get the bowling ball I just went to a local alley and asked nicely. They have lots of bowling balls that nobody's allowed to use any more (risk of chipping, or the finger holes are already eroded out)
In the fitness vein, wrap them in leather and sell them as artisan upcycled medicine balls and you've got a solid kickstarter project..