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.


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What Ryan says about the importance of recycling

“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 said.

He said when his Dad first took him to the recycling center, he fell in love with it and wanted to continue recycling. “It was fun and I saw it was making a difference in the environment.”

Ryan told us that knowing all the recyclable materials he collects will help clean up the environment inspires him to keep going.

“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.”

According to Ryan, here’s how long it takes for different materials to break down in the environment:

  • One soda can – 9 years
  • Plastic bottle – 600 years
  • Glass bottle – 1 million years

He says that around 14% of the litter in the oceans right now consists of these easily recyclable materials. It may seem daunting, but if we all do our part to recycle, we can greatly reduce the amount of litter in our environment. Of course, reducing consumption overall will make the biggest impact, but we should always try to recycle and repurpose what we do use.


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“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 says.

Others’ encouragement keeps Ryan inspired to continue his quest to clean up the Earth, but ultimately, it comes from his own heart. He knew at a young age that he wanted to create a cleaner planet somehow, and that a recycling company was in his future. Now that he’s the president of his company, he sees no end in sight and no limits to what he can accomplish!


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Spread the word–it’s essential to recycle!

His advice for anyone wanting to raise awareness about the importance of recycling is to tell people it does make a big difference. “If millions and millions of people recycle just one bottle or can, it’ll be millions and millions of bottles or cans being recycled. So, it’s really easy to recycle.”

Just like with anything in life, when one person does a good deed, others seem to hop on board from their example. You can see this in action with people who pay it forward at Starbucks and other restaurants. One person creating a positive impact in the world sets off a chain reaction. And eventually, others feel inspired to join in. Most people want to help somehow, but just don’t know where to start.


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Ryan sets a positive example and drive to run a successful recycling company. Plus, he shows the world that anyone can make a difference. When it comes to recycling, most cities provide recycling containers to residents, which makes it easy. However, if your city doesn’t already do this, you do have other options.


Websites such as Earth911.com can give you local options for recycling when you put in your zip code. They also provide tips on best practices for handling recyclable materials so they don’t end up in the environment. Or, you can take the bull by the horns like Ryan did and start your very own recycling company! If he can do it at just 3 years old, anyone can with enough determination and love for cleaning up the planet.


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In 2016, his story went viral, and he’s since been featured on news stations, websites, and radio stations around the globe. Ryan has won many awards and recognitions, including the “2017 Citizen of the Year” by his hometown of San Juan Capistrano.

Some of Ryan’s other notable accomplishments include:

– being named one of the most influential people of 2017 by the Orange County Register
– making the MSN “top 15 kids changing the world” list in 2018
– being listed in Good Housekeeping’s list of 40 kids who have changed the world in 2019 and 2020
– making the Reader’s Digest 2020 List of Kids of the Decade Changing the World
– being featured in TIME Magazine for Kids, National Geographic, and a WHIZ KID in OC Family Magazine
– being named the 2017 CNN Young Wonder
– appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres show and has been on Ryan Seacrest’s radio program
– appearing on ABC World News, Good Morning America, The Today Show, USA Today, Fox, CNN, NBC, and more.

Ryan hopes to save for his college education. Also, he hopes to save for a full-size trash truck with the recycling revenue. If you’d like to help support his company’s volunteer efforts, you can purchase merchandise on his website. If you live in Orange County and have recyclable materials for Ryan to collect, schedule a pick up. You can also book an interview or appearance request, or just ask him questions about recycling in your area.

From his website:

“Thank you to all of Ryan’s friends around the world, his customers and family who have supported his ambitions and hard work recycling.”