The basketball indoor game-ball market is a two ball battle. The Wilson evolution already has a review in the Voiz database, so I thought I’d give its biggest competitor, the Spalding T-1000 a look.
The Spalding T-1000 is the officially adopted ball of 17 states, including California, New York and Texas. This ball is an indoor gym favorite around the world, with a higher price point to go along with the promised quality of the Spalding name. Spalding does not take any steps to stand out as a sustainable goods producer in any way. Fruit of the Loom, who owns Spalding has made notable steps towards the UNs Sustainable Development goals. The consumer should look to Spalding for a long-lasting product that isn’t taking surplus steps to be part of a circular economy.
Aside from the logo, the make of the Spalding ball appears to be indistinguishable from the Wilson counterpart. It is made from a butyl rubber bladder, which is wrapped in nylon threads to form the carcass, and microfiber composite leather panels make up the cover. Butyl rubber is an oil based synthetic rubber, and aside from production its main issue is in disposal as it is not biodegradable. There is technology available for more sustainably produced butyl rubber, such as using bio-based isobutanol as a feedstock; I’d love to see Spalding explore an option like that. Nylon production is also traced back to fossil fuels, and can release nitrous oxide, a devastating greenhouse gas which is detrimental to the ozone layer. Just like the rubber, there are bio-based nylon option, but there is no basketball on the market that uses these sustainable alternatives, but that doesn’t mean Spalding can be a trailblazer. Both rubber and nylon have the potential to be recycled, but Spalding makes no claim of any recycled materials on this model. Some of the outdoor balls are made with “up to 40%” recycled rubber. This is Spaldings high quality offering so I believe in this choice they are sacrificing the benefit of using recycled materials to a more long-lasting ball that will have be replaced less often. However, this brings up the question if using recycled materials degrades the quality at all? The microfiber composite leather is vegan, no animals are directly harmed, however it is made from polyurethane resins, which are likely sourced from fossil fuels.
Way back in 1894 James Naismith contracted Spalding to make the original basketball, and having been prevalent ever since, this speaks to Spalding's durability and trustworthiness in their product. They don't need to revolutionize the basketball, but I think confirming social just and sustainability produced rubber is a good start.
The process in which this Spalding ball is made is very similar to the Wilson Evolution ball. A blob of rubber is flattened, molded into a round shape and inflated to become the bladder. Nylon threads are woven around the carcass to increase strength. Then the 6 microfiber composite leather panels are sowed on.
The parts for the basketball come from around the globe. The nylon windings are made in Japan, and the rubber comes from Malaysia and Vietnam. The balls are assembled in Chin, then shipped to distributers. All of this travel will have a significant impact on emissions.
While this ball is made from synthetic leather, it is important to note that Spalding is the official NBA game ball is made from real leather. In 2006 Spalding tried to make the switch to the synthetic leather, but the NBA players association blocked this, citing minor differences in performance, so it looks like real leather is to stay. Upwards of 50,000 ft^2 of leather is used annually to produce NBA game balls. This practice continues to create business for one of the United States oldest tanneries, Horween Leathers. But the animal conscious reader should be conscious of Spaldings support of real leather, even if not in this ball.
Spalding is a subsidiary of fruit of the loom. On Spalding’s sustainability page they point to Fruit of the Loom’s Code of Conduct. In the environmental sustainability section of this Code, they claim legal compliance at a minimum, and strive to “conduct business in a manner that minimizes energy consumption and waste, optimizes the use of natural resources, and maximizes recycling.” It appears that Spalding has only followed through with the minimum compliance, and there is no evidence of these additional claims. With an estimated $450 million in sales, thats a lot of basketballs, and Spalding has the leverage to make impactful change by taking initiative and looking for more eco-friendly alternatives in their production. At a minimum the consumer deserves to see a publicly available report on this environmental sustainability code of conduct.
Fruit of the Loom (FotL) as a whole has cited UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), multiple times in their Sustainability Report. We value aspect this very highly at Voiz. Following the UNs recommendations, they have already made notable progress towards some of these goals. I loved to see a reduction in greenhouse emissions by 59% from 2012 to 2018, mainly done by investing in a biomass power plant (powered by coal before) for their textile facility in Honduras. They promise to run 100% on renewable for all of their global facilities by 2030. FotL listed advancing towards a circular economy as the least important issue both internally and for their stakeholders. As difficult as it might be, the next step is to prioritize this issue high, as a huge manufacture they have the opportunity to slow down the global conveyer belt of goods.