If you haven’t already heard of Ryan Hickman and his recycling company, it’s time to get this 7-year-old on your radar. His environmental journey all began a few years ago, when young Ryan visited a local recycling facility with his father. He was instantly hooked, and a passion for recycling was sparked in the pint-sized go-getter. With the help of his family, Ryan started a recycling company in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and thus Ryan’s Recycling Company was born.

Photo: Ryan’s Recycling Company

This mini environmentalist started collecting recyclables from neighbors, family and friends at the age of 3 — well, 3 and a half, to be precise. To date, Ryan’s Recycling Company has kept around 200,000 bottles and cans out of local landfills.

Here are just some of the Ryan’s Recycling Company highlights over the years:

  • On April 16, 2016, Ryan received an award for his “environmental conservation efforts” from the Newport Beach chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).
  • Also in April 2016, Ryan was on the cover of The Capistrano Dispatch’s Green Issue. The interview quotes his first-grade teacher. “Ryan’s one of those really unique kids who has a passion,” said teacher Suzanne Devaney. “He just sees things that need to be done and he does them.”
  • In August 2016, Ryan started selling Ryan’s Recycling Company T-shirts. All proceeds are donated to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Calif. So far, the company has donated almost $2,000 to the center.
  • During December 2016, Ryan’s Recycling Company reached a milestone. On the 18th of the month, the money made at the recycling center that day pushed Ryan over the $10,000 mark in his savings account, which he says he is building up in order to buy a garbage truck.
  • In January 2017, Greenpeace International promoted Ryan and Ryan’s Recycling Company on its social media sites.

And then a couple of weeks ago, The Ellen DeGeneres Show aired an episode with this young entrepreneur. It’s an adorable segment, so grab some tissues (I know I’m not the only one who’ll tear up!) and take a look.

How Can You Help Ryan’s Recycling Company?

If you live in Orange County, Calif., you can schedule Ryan’s Recycling Company to pick up recyclables (bottles and cans) from your home or office.

If you don’t live in Orange Country, you can purchase a Ryan’s Recycling Company T-shirt and help the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

Photo: Ryan’s Recycling Company

If you have any questions about where and what you can recycle in your area, visit our Recycling Search (it’s so easy, a 7-year-old could use it!).

By Wendy Gabriel

Wendy Gabriel is a freelance eco-writer based in California. Wendy's work has been featured in numerous publications and websites, including the Chicago Sun-Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fox Business News and Mashable.com. For nearly six years, she was a weekly contributor on a popular radio talk show in the Upper Midwest with a segment titled “Simple Tips for Green Living.”