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Divers rescue 200,000 golf balls a month

Play Golf. Company based in Ólvega (Soria) and leader in the production of golf balls in Europe, rescues 200,000 balls a month from lakes in the fields and produces 800,000 monthly. Its goal is to reach one million in 2022, as confirmed to EFE by Álvaro Fernández, CEO of the company. Replay Golf produces, recycles and reconditions.

Who hasn’t lost a ball on a golf course? It is estimated that 420 million balls are lost each year in the world., the equivalent of filling 70 Olympic swimming pools. It would be 19,000 tons of plastic waste. An economic and ecological problem that is being fought in Soria. There is the first golf ball factory in Europe: recover, recondition and recycle.

The Replay Golf facilities in Ólvega receive balls recovered by gardeners, fans and collectors from all over the world, especially from Europe, Japan, Korea and the United States, the main golf markets. By immersions of divers, they themselves rescue those that fall into the lakes of the fields, about 200,000 a month. And they even take advantage of the range (practice balls) to give them a second life.

They make up those that are almost new, which return to the second-hand sales channel; they recondition those that appear to be in good condition, with a process that includes stripping, painting, pad printing and lacquering so that they regain their properties, and they recycle those that arrive at the factory with the most wear.

The latter are scrapped by separating the rubber from the core and the thermoplastic from the covers. Thus, they become raw material for new balls. In the midst of a supply crisis, recycling is an opportunity to rebuild the chain.

“One of the golf ball materials, the cover, also called Surlyn, has had months of shortages, up to -70 percent over forecast, similar to what the automotive industry has suffered with microchips. That caused serious problems to the planning. The need to reinvent ourselves and supply ourselves with recycled material has become an opportunity,” the CEO of Replay Golf, Álvaro Fernández, explains to EFE.

They moved to Europe in 2009 a business model that already existed in the United States and that they have been “expanding little by little”. They started by recycling and reconditioning and in 2014 they decided to become a manufacturer of new balls. Among them, the Eco Practice, made from recycled material, but with the performance and durability of a standard practice ball.

Currently, they produce about 800,000 balls per month and the goal is to reach one million per month before the end of 2022. Around 70-80 percent are new and the rest are recycled and reconditioned.

From Replay they defend that “the differences are minimal” between a new ball and a reconditioned one on the golf course, but not in the pocket. They cost 50 percent less. “If you are going to play the tournament of your life, my recommendation is to play a new ball, but if not, the benefits are almost identical,” says the CEO of the Soria company.

Its machines are, in 40 percent, industry standards, mainly from the United States and Asia, while the other 60 percent corresponds to own designs with Spanish suppliers and other European countries.

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