Kudos to Our Recycler: At Age 7, He’s Saving the Planet & Lots of Money

How many 7-year-olds have touched almost 100 million people in person and online?

We know of one: Ryan Hickman. Here's Ryan at Labeltronix.

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He’s been working to save the ocean for half his life by collecting cans and bottles—and making money—with recycling in and near his hometown of San Juan Capistrano.

The president of Ryan’s Recycling was recently featured on “Ellen”—and got $10,000 and a battery-operated vehicle for neighborhood pickups from the talk show host.

Between recycling and income from his interviews, the grand total of Ryan’s Recycling is about $23,000—enough to start funds for college, and maybe even that trash truck he’s been dreaming about.

Ryan is passionate about keeping plastic, glass and aluminum out of the ecosystem, and Labeltronix is proud to be one of the routine stops he and his dad make to pick up recyclables. (Damion Hickman, his ultra-dedicated dad, is also our uber-talented graphic designer.)

Starting at Age 3

“Ryan got started recycling by going to our local rePlanet location with me when he was about 3 1/2 years old,” says Damion. “He really enjoyed going and I gave him the money from the plastic bottles and then he immediately put the connection together of recycled bottles + cans = money.”

The next day, Ryan asked all of his neighbors to start saving for him. He then enlisted his grandparent’s neighborhood and it just grew from there—with El Niguel Country Club as his biggest customer.

Every 3 weeks, the Hickmans set out to collect the bottles and cans, bring them home and sort them into glass, plastic and aluminum cans. “Everything is bagged up and we head off to the recycle center,” said Damion. “A typical trip to the recycling center takes an hour or so, and Ryan usually makes around $200 or more each time.”

Ryan is involved in every step of his business—from collecting to lifting bags to sorting and depositing his money in the bank. He’s also raising money for charity by selling T-shirts with his Ryan’s Recycling logo.

Ryan’s Recycling Goes Viral

Now a 2nd grader, Ryan starting gaining fame because of his 1st grade teacher who wanted him to get attention in the local paper—the Capistrano Dispatch.

That story was picked up by the One Green Planet website in December. “Once that happened, all sorts of sites started writing stories and the Ellen show called us late January about coming on the show,” Damion says.

From there, Ryan’s popularity snowballed, with requests for interviews or his images to be used online from ABC World News, Good Morning America, Good Day LA, Fox News, CNN, CNBC, MSN, The Ryan Seacrest radio show, PBS, The Weather Channel, USA Today, The OC Register, Voice of America and many more. Once the story was out, the T-shirt sales started coming in from all over the country.

Ryan’s story has been featured by many social media video production companies such as Huffington Post, Upworthy, Now This, David Wolfe, and 60 Second Docs (which has a record breaking 40 million views on just their video at the time of writing this).

Ryan’s story has been seen by many millions of people worldwide and has been shared in over 40 countries. He’s been featured on Greenpeace International’s web site and many other environmental organizations.

In October, Ryan and his family will go to Austria where he has been invited to speak as a junior entrepreneur at a TED X conference.

He’s also a junior ambassador at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and is very proud of the brick with his name on it in their walkway.

On a recent family vacation to Belize, Ryan toured a recycling center on a little island, and he was recognized as the “YouTube kid,” and the tour guide had seen Ryan’s appearance on “Ellen.”

“Last month, we got to take a tour of RePlanets Rancho Cucamonga’s processing facility where all the cans and bottles go when Ryan recycles locally,” says Damion. “Ryan told me he liked going there better than Disneyland.”

We applaud Ryan’s passion for saving the planet—and we share in that mission. We know he’s inspired us. Let us know how he’s inspired you.

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