About this idea
I have created a way of making an all wood, biodegradable pickleball paddle that weighs and performs like a premium carbon fiber paddle. By using CNC technology to carve out the core of the paddle into a very precise pattern, and a combination of lightweight yet structural wood species, I am able to make a strong, durable, high performing, yet lightweight primarily hollow wooden paddle.
I have a provisional patent for the utility of a hollow core wooden pickleball paddle because it has never been done before.
On top of replacing the plastic core and plastic face of the traditional paddle with wood, I have also replaced the plastic edge-guard with a biodegradable cotton tape, the plastic butt-cap with a biodegradable wax seal, and the plasticized grip wrap with a veg-tanned leather grip. Every part of my paddle is a vastly more sustainable material solution than what is out there primarily now, and without sacrificing any performance.
Estimates put the number of people playing pickleball a year in the US at 36.5 million. If even only half of those people bought their own plastic paddle, that equates to over 9,000 TONS of plastic heading to our landfills each year. That staggering number only represents the tragic end of life cycle for these pieces of plastic. Most paddles on the market today are made in China from a combination of virgin plastic and processed plastics like carbon fiber. Which means to get the paddle to you in the first place someone used a non-renewable resource like petroleum which cost a lot of energy to extract, then used an extremely energy intensive industrial process to turn it into a plastic product, then used more energy to bond and shape that plastic, and then shipped that overseas. Best case scenario you play with it for a year and then it goes into the landfill.
My all wood paddles are made entirely from materials sourced from North America that either come directly from the earth or undergo minimal processing to become usable material, and all of them can return to the earth safely at the end of their life.
Pickleball paddles will not save the earth, but there is no reason that they should be a part of destroying it. By changing the industry standard and getting players to switch to sustainable paddles we can stop thousands of tons of plastic from going to landfills a year. And beyond just pickleball, perhaps we can start a movement to make all sporting goods sustainable in order to preserve the environment that we need to be able to play the sports we love.
What I'll do with $5,000
I would use the $5,000 prize in two ways. Most of the money would go towards getting machinery to produce paddles more effectively and at a larger scale. I currently work off of a small desktop CNC machine that cannot cut a whole paddle at once. A large size CNC machine that can cut a whole paddle at one time would cost $3,000, plus another $700 for bits, dust collection, and clamps. Having this machine would effectively cut the time it takes me to produce a paddle in half, while also increasing repeatability and precision.
The remaining $1,300 would go towards paying a photographer and a graphic designer to document the paddles and help build out a more comprehensive website and social media presence with images and graphics.