Making a Dive for Sustainability

Amelia Fay (’25)

As a volleyball player, and libero at that, I find myself going through a pair of kneepads every season. Sometimes it’s because the padding gets worn down or because the sleeve gets holes in it or because they just get so disgusting after getting drenched in sweat every day for three months straight. After the kneepads are no longer usable, at least in the user’s opinion, they just get thrown away. This feels like a waste! Because of this, I explored what is in volleyball kneepads, how they get made, and how they could become more sustainable. 

After choosing a specific model of kneepads based on popularity, I looked into the materials they were made of: rayon – wood pulp; polyester – petroleum; elastic – petroleum. Two-thirds of the materials are made of fossil fuels! And I had no clue even after using kneepads since fourth grade! Next, I looked for sustainable substitutions for these materials. I ended up replacing the rayon with rubber because rubber can be recycled and reformed. As for elastic and polyester I discovered plant-based versions of both that are biodegradable. This means after one step of extraction, the materials will stay in a cycle where they avoid the landfill. Beyond this, in order to increase longevity of the kneepads, the user should wash them regularly and dry them out after use. This will keep them from wearing down as much. 

I hope this post reaches the volleyball players that are willing to learn more about their sports equipment and willing to do what they can to help out the Earth!

Life Cycle Analysis of Volleyball Knee Pads and how to make the product circular.