Ten-year-old Ryan Hickman has been operating his own recycling company since he was three years old. Ryan’s Recycling started out as something fun that was also beneficial for the environment and has since turned into a means of addressing a recycling problem in California. Many California redemption centers have recently shut down because of a new conundrum: increased costs to maintain recycling programs and a decreased value for recycled aluminum and PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic.

Ryan’s increased passion for recycling caught wind amongst the San Juan Capistrano community where members became conscious of their complacent waste and environmental impact and started dropping off their recyclables for the youngster. By gathering bottles and cans in his community that would have otherwise been sorted at redemption centers or ended up in landfills Ryan has made recycling convenient for all by doing the sorting himself. His goal is to prevent aluminum, plastic, and glass from ending up in landfills, where they can take anywhere from 90 to one million years to break down. The young professional also wants to prevent bottles and cans from making their way to the ocean, where they become harmful to marine life. Over the last 7 years, Ryan has now collected over 700,000 bottles and cans—that’s over 100,000 pounds of recyclables! 

Public attention to the recycling crisis has resulted in business development for Ryan’s recycling; partnering with organizations to further address recyclings importance. He’s working with Recycle Across America (RAA) to develop standardized recycling labels and is set to travel around the world with Valley Living to educate others about filtering. His advice? “If a kid like me can do it, anybody can do it. It’s easy.”