Ryan Hickman is a living testament that children can do great things. At a young age of 3, he already knew that recycling would be in his future. Now, the 11-year-old Ryan is saving the environment with his very own successful recycling company and has donated $12,880 to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
His growing recycling company began in 2012, when his dad took him to the recycling center to cash in a few small bags of cans and bottles.
“He likes to sort pretty much anything, and he liked putting the bottles in the machine,” Damion Hickman, Ryan’s supportive father shared with a local newspaper. “He probably got two or three bucks, and he was so excited about it. And of course then he got to sort his change, so that meant more sorting.”
The next day, Ryan told his parents that he wanted to hand out empty plastic bags to all their neighbors so they could save their recyclables for him. As it turned out, their friends, families, and co-workers had also saved their cans and bottles for the young environmental hero.
Today, Ryan caters to customers across Orange County, California. Every week, the 11-year-old boy dedicates a part of his time sorting through cans and bottles from customers. His helpful parents and grandmother drive Ryan to his customers for pickups. They also assist him in helping lift the heavy stuff, as well as scheduling events and managing social media.
“I have recycled over 1 million cans and bottles, and I started recycling when I was 3.5 years old. Now I’m 11, so that was 8 years of recycling,” Ryan shared his journey with pride.
“Every single can and bottle that I recycle is not ending up in oceans, landfills, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, or for animals to eat it, get sick, and die.” The 11-year-old Ryan shared what keeps fuelling his passion, stressing the importance of recycling.
Did you know that to break down in the environment, one soda can takes 9 years, a plastic bottle takes 600 years, and a glass bottle takes 1 million years?! As it takes years and years for these materials to decompose, it is crucial to recycle them. Doing so will help conserve natural resources, protect ecosystems, and cuts climate-changing carbon emissions.
“What keeps me motivated to keep recycling is just getting letters and emails from all over the world telling me thanks and keep up the recycling,” Ryan shared.
In 2016, Ryan and his successful recycling company went viral. Since then, his amazing advocacy has been featured on various websites, televisions, and radio stations across the world. He has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Pickler & Ben show, and Little Big Shots. Ryan was also interviewed by Maria Menounos on Sirius/XM Radio, as well as Ryan Seacrest’s syndicated radio program.
Despite his young age, he has already unlocked a lot of achievements. The 11-year-old wonder kid is a 2017 CNN Young Wonder, as well as a 2017 Citizen of the Year awardee in his hometown – San Juan Capistrano. In the same year, Ryan was selected as one of the 100 Most Influential People by the Orange County Register. Most recently, he made it to the top 20 finalists for TIME magazine’s 2020 Kid of the Year.
Ryan’s recycling company collects and recycles plastic and glass beverage bottles, as well as aluminum cans. He hopes to save for his college education, as well as for a full-size trash truck from his recycling revenue.
As a Youth Ambassador at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Ryan donates all proceeds from his company logo t-shirts to help support their volunteer efforts.
Visit his website to know more about Ryan’s recycling company and his admirable passion to save the environment. You may also watch this video below and find out why he was hailed as the 2017 CNN Young Wonder.