RYAN HICKMAN

Ryan Hickman is only seven years old but he already has it all figured out. While other boys spend their days sitting in front of the computer or running around, he manages his own recycling company.

He already boasts 40 customers: he sorts garbage for them and sends it to a recycling plant. In just for years, he saved $10,000 for college!

He first got interested in recycling when he was just 3 years old. His father once brought him to a recycling center and Ryan liked the sorting process. He tried putting bottles in the machine and even earned a few dollars for his trouble. When the toddler returned home, he and his mother distributed plastic bags among his neighbors so Ryan could collect and dispose of their cans and bottles. Friends, family members, and their co-workers soon joined in and an entrepreneur was born.

Four years later, his project is alive and well. The family’s backyard acts as Ryan’s sorting facility, where he has about eight large trash cans that he sorts containers into—bottles and cans, plastics and glass, they all have their place. Ryan’s family visits the recycling center every third Sunday, and on the weekends, he can often be seen sorting to prepare for those visits.

He has recycled 49,000 pounds of trash, around 200,000 bottles and cans and donated $1,600 out of his earnings. The rest of his earnings - $10,000 – are credited to a separate account to pay for his college. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center noticed his efforts and appointed the boy as a Youth Ambassador. In order to raise awareness about garbage sorting and recycling, Ryan has designed T-shirts with the company logo.

Ryan is “very passionate” about recycling, “and he likes to get everybody else passionate about it as well,” says Ryan's mother, Andrea. “I think he’s rubbed off on all of us now. You find yourself walking past a can on the ground and needing to pick it up instead of walking away and leaving it there."

Globally speaking, his work may be a drop in the ocean. In practice though, a passionate enthusiast can change the entire world.