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Environmental and Social Impacts of NBA Basketball

NBA Basketballs

NBA Basketballs are made by Spalding

What is Basketball?

Basketball is an American invented game with millions of fans across the globe. The game is fast-paced and is action packed. It’s played in a rectangular court with two elevated baskets at each end. The basketball is circular and is inflated. Players dribble the ball to each end of the court to try and shoot the ball in the basket. It’s played in 10-minute quarters with a 15-minute break during half time. The winning team is the team with the most points at the end of the game.

PART A: Environmental impacts of the production of an NBA Basketball

During the manufacturing of a basketball, the materials used are efficiently cut, shaped and bounded together using machines so there is little material loss, decreasing the basketball’s ecological footprint by a large amount.

NBA Basketballs comply with all local and applicable international laws protecting the environment, including proper storage and disposal of hazardous substances, and try to strive to conduct business in a manner that minimises energy consumption and waste, optimises the use of natural resources, and maximises recycling.

Transportation

NBA Basketballs comply with all applicable customs laws, establish and maintain programs to safeguard against the illegal shipping of the basketballs. The company mainly uses trucks, ships and airplanes to distribute the basketballs to retailers and end-users. The transporting process uses fossil fuels as a main energy source. Hence the emissions from fossil fuels usage – carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides apply here.

Whatare NBA basketballs made of?

NBA basketballs have an inflatable inner bladder, (made of butyl rubber) wrapped in layers of fibre and then covered with a surface made from leather. Rubber farming is used to produce the butyl rubber. There are several downsides to rubber farming, as crops cannot be planted in between the rubber trees, as the trees basically suck up all the water and nutrients from the ground and the trees produce a pungent rubber smell. The Asian Development Bank reports that each hectare of rubber plantation loses an estimated amount of 22.5 tons of soil per year to erosion, and 123.8 tonnes of water through shrinking groundwater tables. All thought these figures may seem bad, they can improve by changing the man-made rubber to natural rubber as natural rubber is good for the environment and produces little ecological footprint.

Horween’s produces the leather for NBA Basketballs. Each basketball requires about 90 to 120 square centimetres to make. Horween’s mostly get their leather from Lowa and Ontario, Canada. Sadly, to produce the leather required for the ball, the killing of cows is necessary. Therefore, huge masses of land are used up for cow grazing. The leather tanning process is very harmful to the environment as it contains a large amount of pollutants, such as salt, lime sludge, sulphides and acid.

The fibre around the bladder is usually made of nylon/polyester. Nylon is the polycondensation of adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine. It can be traced back to crude oil and natural gases. After collecting solid nylon pellets from the solution, they are heated to a temperature where they melt into a thin thread. This is wrapped around the rubber bladder to create stability. The harmful things about the production of nylon is that it releases nitrous oxide that contributes to ozone destruction.

Packaging of an NBA Basketball

The packaging of an NBA basketball is fully made of cardboard. The manufacture and disposal of paper and cardboard products can impact the environment through landfill – discarded paper and cardboard uses scarce landfill space. As paper/cardboard breaks down it contributes to leachate that can contaminate groundwater, while also generating the greenhouse gas methane. Though, this can be fixed if the company always recycles not only cardboard/paper but also everything that can be recycled. This will reduce the overall environmental impact from the production of NBA Basketballs.

PART B: Social impacts

Health and safety

Spalding provides a safe and healthy workplace setting to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of Spalding’s operations. Conditions throughout a Spalding’s facility, including dormitories owned or operated by the Supplier, are safe, clean and meet requirements of all applicable laws and regulations regarding safety and health. Workers are be trained and equipped to perform their jobs safely.

Compensation and wages

Every worker in Spalding has compensation for a regular work week that is sufficient to meet their basic needs and provide some discretionary income. Spalding pays at least the minimum wage or the appropriate prevailing wage, whichever is higher, comply with all legal requirements on wages, and provide any fringe benefits required by law or contract. Where compensation does not meet a worker’s basic needs and provide some discretionary income, Spalding works with the Fair Labour Association to take appropriate actions that seek to progressively realise a level of compensation that does. Spalding does not use deductions from wages or other monetary fines as a disciplinary practice.

Security

Spalding maintains a good security procedure to guard against the introduction of non-manifested cargo (e.g., drugs and other contraband) into shipments of NBA Basketballs, including, but not limited to, compliance with Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) requirements for shipments to the United States.

Working hours

Spalding does not require their workers to work more than the regular and overtime hours allowed by applicable law. In no event will the regular work week exceed 48 hours, and workers will be allowed at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every seven-day period. All overtime work will be consensual. Spalding never requests overtime on a regular basis and will always compensate for overtime work at a premium rate. Under in no circumstances, the sum of regular and overtime hours in a week will never exceed 60 hours.

 Labour

Spalding does not allow individuals under the local mandatory school age or under the applicable legal employment age to apply for a job in their company. Spalding doesn’t employ workers under age 15, except for child actors or models that are for their advertising or media, and then only in compliance with applicable child labour regulations. Spalding never uses forced labour, including prison labour, slave labour, or bonded labour. Spalding always adopts measures to ensure that Spalding factories and facilities are not utilised in human trafficking and monitors their supply chain for such practices.

Freedom, discrimination and harrasment

Spalding never discriminates in the employment process, including hiring, compensation, advancement, discipline, termination or retirement, on the basis of gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, union affiliation, political opinion, social group, or ethnic origin. Spalding always treats all employees the same with respect and dignity. Spalding has procedures in place to ensure that no one is a subject to any physical, sexual, psychological or verbal harassment or abuse. Spalding always recognise and respects the rights of everyone to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

PART C: Minimising negative impacts

While a basketball only has a few components, the materials and process of making one generate more wastes and emissions beyond one’s expectation. Understanding the wastes and emissions involved in making of a basketball can help one to make better eco-friendly purchase decision and encourage the effort to extend the product’s life span and reduce environment damage.

Though a basketball may not seem like an energy-consuming product, millions of basketballs are made every year and their production process links to wastes and emissions that can make a negative impact on the environment. Since most components of a basketball is made from synthetic materials, many of them can be removed from the waste stream and recycled to reduce the energy required extracting the same material again. It’s all about how we to use energy more efficiently and reduce the amount of energy we need to input to make the same products. Simply giving up the product is not realistic for both the consumer’s personal and company’s economic interest. The buyer can pay attention to the products they purchase and choose the ones made from materials generate less wastes and emissions. In the end of a product’s life span, recycling is also a significant step the consumer can take to reduce the energy consumption of extracting the raw materials. Perhaps, like what Ozzie Zehner said in his book Green Illusions, “the best material consumption is less material consumption.” If Spalding can reduce their consumption, fewer wastes and emissions will be released to our threatened environment. This would therefore mean a brighter future for the generations to come.

What can be done to reduce a basketball’s ecological footprint?

One of the first things Spalding can do to decrease a basketball’s ecological footprint is to change their main energy source, from fossil fuels to solar energy as burning fossil fuels is the primary contribute to greenhouse gases. While on the other hand, solar energy is renewable and is good for the environment, leaving behind no ecological footprint. Even if Spalding can’t change their energy source fully, that would still be a huge impact, thousands of tonnes of harmful emissions can be reduced every year. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are two example of air pollutants that results in smog and respiratory diseases.

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Leather, as the cover of the basketball can really damage the environment. Leather is used for performance and grip, but the price of our environment is to pay. The average basketballer usually buys basketballs with synthetic covers for use. Synthetic is better than leather in multiple ways, it’s cheaper to buy and make, and is better for the environment. Better performance and grip are just a little sacrifice for our environment.

Leather

Composite material

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