Garden and Yard Care

Published on November 13th, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance


Golf Balls Take 1000 Years to Decompose

Golf is a popular leisure sport in the United States and Europe among the middle and upper class.  Golf courses are often criticized by environmentalists for their use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides.  Sure, golf carts are electric vehicles; however, “The extensive use of pesticides on golf courses raises serious questions about people’s toxic exposure, drift over neighboring communities, water contamination, and effects on wildlife and sensitive ecosystems,” according to Beyond Pesticides.  Now the attention towards greening golf has shifted to the golf balls themselves, which can take 1000 years to decompose.

Golf balls take between a century and millennium to decompose.

Golf balls take between a century and millennium to decompose.

Players often lose golf balls. In fact there are a few lost in my own meadow and I don’t even play golf.  Live Science reminds us that in 1971,  Alan Shepard even left some on the moon ( two or three golf balls).  Golf ball litter is becoming an environmental concern on this planet. CNN reports:

Research teams at the Danish Golf Union have discovered it takes between 100 to 1,000 years for a golf ball to decompose naturally. A startling fact when it is also estimated 300 million balls are lost or discarded in the United States alone, every year…The scale of the dilemma was underlined recently in Scotland, where scientists — who scoured the watery depths in a submarine hoping to discover evidence of the prehistoric Loch Ness monster — were surprised to find hundreds of thousands of golf balls lining the bed of the loch.

Not only do golf balls take between a century and millennium to break down, they release toxic zinc in the process. This heavy metal attaches “itself to the ground sediment and poisoned the surrounding flora and fauna” when in water. Other heavy metals used in golf ball production include tungsten, cobalt and lead.

There are solutions to the golf ball litter problem, as well as the pesticide use on the fairway.  Biodegradable, non-toxic golf balls are available. Perhaps land courses should follow in the footsteps of MARPOL treaty, which banned the practice of hitting toxic golf balls into the sea and requiring only non-toxic biodegradable balls on the course. This would be a step in the right direction.  While we can’t do anything about the golf balls left on the moon, which are thought to have already degraded from the moon’s extreme temperatures, we can do something about the golf balls on planet earth.

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