Young Change Makers: How Ryan Hickman of Ryan’s Recycling Is Helping To Make A Difference In Our World
Eleven-year-old Ryan Hickman has become an international icon for recycling and environmental awareness. Ryan started Ryan’s Recycling when he was just three years old and has since recycled over 1.2 million bottles and cans (over 67 tons) over the past eight years in his effort to clean up the planet and to keep pollution out of our oceans and landfills. Ryan leads and organizes weekly beach clean-up events in his community and he travels internationally speaking about recycling and saving our planet from plastic pollution. Ryan started a recycling program within his elementary school and Ryan also volunteers his time recording educational videos for schools and inspiring others all across the world through his recycling education events and his passion to make the world a cleaner place... Read the entire interview here
I’m so excited that the creator of the cartoon JUMP START, Robb Armstrong sent me his original illustration board of today’s episode! I filmed a commercial in NY in November and he heard me speak about how we have to find a way to clean up the great garbage patch out in the Pacific Ocean and it inspired him to make this comic about that very topic. Thank you Robb for sending this to me. It’s so cool!
Ryan Hickman started his own recycling company at just three years old after visiting the local recycling center in Orange County, CA. When Ryan went with his Dad to turn in a few bags of cans and bottles. He immediately fell in love with recycling. At that moment, he knew he wanted to run his own recycling company to help the planet. So, the day after visiting the center, Ryan told his parents about his plans.
He said he wanted to provide empty plastic bags to his neighbors in hopes they’d save their recyclable materials for him. All the neighbors ended up saving their cans for Ryan. And then he rallied his friends, family, and his parents’ coworkers. Now, Ryan has customers all over Orange County, and his recycling company is doing better than ever. He spends a portion of each week sorting through cans and bottles from customers to get them ready for the recycling center… (read more)
Last year I did an interview with my friends Amy and Ella Meek. They made a book about how to limit plastic pollution and it’s filled with awesome examples and stories or people doing amazing things around the world. I’m so happy to be featured in it. Order yours today and find out more about the exciting stuff that Amy and Ella are doing at https://www.kidsagainstplastic.co.uk/
What was just a trip to a local recycling center for this 11-year-old with his father eight years ago has turned into a mission to help keep the environment clean whilst also inspiring millions around the world to recycle.
In 2012, Ryan Hickman was just 3.5 years old when he thought that recycling was fun but had no idea he would start a local recycling business and help create such a huge difference.
However, a day after visiting the recycling center, the little boy told his parents that he wanted to give out empty plastic bags to people in the neighborhood of San Juan Capistrano in hopes that they would bring it back filled with recyclables.
Soon enough, not only his supportive neighbors but even friends, family, and co-workers saved their cans and bottles for Ryan to recycle, and that’s how his company, Ryan’s Recycling, began.
“My dad made me a logo and business cards and I started handing out informational postcards to potential new customers,” Ryan said in an interview with Shoutout LA.
In December 2016, Ryan’s recycling story went viral, garnering attention from media around the world. Since then, the little boy has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Pickler & Ben show, and Little Big Shots.
In the last few years, Ryan has won several accolades for his work, including the 2017 CNN Young Wonder Award, 2018 MSN’s Top 15 Kids Changing the World List, 2020 Reader’s Digest Top Kids of the Decade Changing the World List, and more, according to his website.
However, for Ryan, he believes that the publicity has just helped him reach out to more people. “I think the publicity has helped my business because we get calls all the time from people,” he told Shoutout LA.
The youngster says he considers himself to be really “lucky,” as his father, Damion, helps him by driving to clients in Orange County, California, during the week to pick up cans and bottles that would otherwise be sitting in a landfill for decades. After sorting out the cans and bottles, Ryan takes them to a recycling center. His main goal is to keep these recyclables from reaching the ocean and harming the environment.
At the time of writing, Ryan has recycled 1,160,574 cans and bottles and donated US$12,373 to Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a Laguna Beach rescue and rehabilitation center for sea animals. Ryan has made it possible to donate the money to save sea lions from the sales proceeds of his quirky T-shirts that help create awareness on recycling.
“It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s been worth it because I’m able to support my friends at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center with donations,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s project also caught the attention of the founders of Sambazon, a brand that produces frozen organic acai and works on protecting thousands of acres of the Amazon rainforest under the fair trade agreement. The founders wanted to lend a hand to support Ryan.
“We always try to reduce packaging waste as much as possible, but when we do end up with leftover inventory that can’t be used, we recycle what we can!” their website states.
After reaching out to Ryan’s Recycling, in September, Sambazon donated 93,000 Amazon Energy cans for recycling, which helped the little boy in crossing over his 1 million milestone mark of cans recycled. However, Ryan states that he is determined not to slow down.
Apart from recycling, Ryan also travels a lot to conduct speaking and recycling education events in schools and various communities in an effort to create more awareness on recycling. Additionally, Ryan states that he “organize[s] community clean up events and I have partnered with organizations like Recycle Across America, Sand Cloud, Valet Living and others to help make a difference.”
On his mission to help clean the environment, Ryan also started to do weekly beach cleanups. “It’s not something I make money with but it helps keep the beach clean and it only takes me an hour a week,” Ryan said.
“I want the world to know that you don’t have to be super crazy about recycling like me to make a real difference in your community,” Ryan further added. “Every item recycled and every piece of trash picked up makes a difference.”
We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Hickman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I was only 3 1/2 years old when my dad took me to our local recycling center and I wasn’t really thinking about starting a business. I just thought recycling was fun and I asked all of my neighbors to start recycling with me. Soon, I was collecting bags from all of them full of cans and bottles and I decided I would make it a business. My dad made me a logo and business cards and I started handing out informational postcards to potential new customers. I figured if a kid like me could help make a difference, what if I could help hundreds of people or thousands of people do the same thing? Now I’m 11 and I’ve inspired millions of people all over the world to recycle and to think about a clean environment.
I’m soooooo excited to be in the top 20 finalists for the 2020 Kid of the Year from Time magazine and Nickelodeon! Tune in to CBS or Nickelodeon with me on Dec 5th to see who becomes Kid of the Year! #KOTY#ryansrecycling
Hey everyone – I have a brand new shirt for sale! Proceeds from my new DON’T BE A WIENER – MAKE THE PLANET CLEANER shirt are donated to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California. They are made out of 100% cotton and are the Next Level shirts like my other shirts that everyone says are super comfy. These shirts are also printed using environmentally friendly ink. My Ryan’s Recycling logo is small and centered below back collar area on the back. I have a limited amount of these printed so be sure to order yours before they are gone. The seals and sea lions at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center say thanks!
Available in Youth sizes XS-L and Adult sizes S-XXXL