Seven years ago, Ryan Hickman joined his father to cash in a few bags of cans and bottles at a local recycling center.
The next day, the three-and-a-half-year-old became an eco-minded entrepreneur.
He told his parents he wanted to give empty plastic bags to their neighbors so they could save their recyclables and give it to him for their next trip to the redemption center.
“I loved it and that’s what I wanted to do,” Ryan said.
Today, the 10-year-old Harold Ambuehl Elementary School student has operated Ryan’s Recycling Company, a business that has recycled over 615,000 cans and bottles and donated $9,023 to Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
“It’s the support from people around the world who are making a difference in helping keep recyclable beverage containers from the landfill or ocean,” he said.
To further help the environment, members of the community are invited to participate in Ryan’s big beach clean-up from 7 to 9 a.m. this Saturday, September 14 at Main Beach, Laguna Beach. The event will draw in an estimated group of 200 supporters and sponsors, and a filming crew from “The Today Show,” will be taping the clean-up, he said.
“There will be doughnuts,” Ryan said, adding that there will be raffle prizes.
It has been Ryan’s goal to prevent cans and bottles from ending up in the ocean. Every Tuesday, he collects bags of collected items outside each classroom door at Harold Ambuehl Elementary. He sorts through the cans and readies them for the recycle center.
It was his first-grade teacher, Suzanne Devaney, who first supported his cause and asked that he present his mission during Earth Day.
Ryan’s recycling story and impact have garnered significant recognition on global television, radio and news stations. He was a 2017 CNN Young Wonder, appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show and has been featured on PBS, ABC World News and “Good Morning America” among several other networks. He was awarded the 2017 Citizen of the Year by his hometown of San Juan Capistrano. Additionally, he was recognized by the Greater Irvine Chamber’s 40 Under 40 and was presented the Future Leader Award by Ware Disposal during the Chamber’s 2019 program.
Next year, he and his dad will be traveling to Budapest, Hungary for an outdoor environment tech event and he will speak at a kids’ heroes event in Taipei, Taiwan, where he will be speaking to students with special needs and make visits to schools and hospitals.
For Saturday’s clean-up, Ryan said he wants to share with his classmates and supporters the message of helping reduce the pollution caused by waste.
“I just want to let them know it’s important to keep trash out of the ocean,” Ryan said, “and that if they litter, it’s just going to go back there which is bad for the environment.”
For those who can’t make the event but would like to help Ryan and the environment, he can be contacted to schedule a pick-up. Ryan and his dad take the recycled plastic, glass beverage bottles and aluminum cans to the local redemption center.
For more information, visit ryansrecycling.com.