Recycling nearly half a million can and bottles since he started the business, nine-year old entrepreneur Ryan Hickman is committed to educating people on how to recycle correctly and keeping cans and bottles from harming the environment.

At 3 ½ years old, Ryan Hickman, accompanied his dad to the local recycling center and cashed in a few small bags of cans and bottles. It was from this point on that he decided that he wanted to start a recycling business by giving plastic bags to all of the neighbors to save their recyclables so he could pick them up. Not only did the neighbors save their cans and bottles for Ryan, but so did friends, families and co-workers. Today, nine-year old Ryan has named his business Ryan’s Recycling (San Juan, CA) and has customers all over Orange County, CA. With a passion for recycling, his goal is to keep the cans and bottles from reaching the ocean and harming the environment. He spends a part of every week sorting through cans and bottles from his customers and getting them ready to take to the recycling centers. His parents and grandmother help with the business by driving Ryan to his customers for pickups and helping lift the heavy stuff when he needs a hand. His parents also help with scheduling speaking events and managing social media. Ryan also speaks to people about recycling all over the country, including in November 2017 when he spoke at WE DAY ( in Vancouver, Canada about his recycling.

Ryan poses with his weekly recycling efforts before loading in the truck. Photo courtesy of Ryan’s Recycling.

Ryan’s customers call the company during the week to schedule pickups on the weekends. Ryan and his dad drive from customer to customer loading up the truck and then bringing the cans and bottles back home to sort and take them to the rePlanet recycling centers. Customers and inquiries are made through the Web site or by e-mail. Although the closest rePlanet location closed due to recycling issues, Ryan now goes to the next closest center. “We feel it’s a small inconvenience compared to not recycling at all and it ending up in the landfill,” he says.

Reaching Out to the Community
Since he started the business, Ryan has recycled nearly half a million cans and bottles and Ryan has no plans of slowing down. “I’ve been lucky to be featured all over the world for what I do and I like inspiring others to recycle too. We get e-mails and letters from people all around the planet who have started recycling after hearing about what I do. I think it’s super cool,” says Ryan. “I just reach out to people to recycle better and let people know how recycling saves the environment.”

Ryan expresses that he does get frustrated that people do not recycle properly, but he is always happy to help someone learn how to do it. “I wish more people knew how to recycle better. A lot of people just throw random stuff in the recycling bin like food containers and they cannot be recycled in the same way. I’m working with a non-profit organization called Recycle Across America and they are pushing to have standardized labels on recycle bins to make it easy for people to realize how to recycle right.” Ryan participates in many community events throughout the year and people might see him anywhere under his ez-up canopy educating people on how to recycle better. This year Ryan’s Recycling went to some really fun events like the local landfill for an Earth Day event and at one in Tustin to raise awareness for kids with special needs with friends from Hoopstars. “Ryan loves meeting people and helping them understand what can be recycled,” says his dad, Damion.

Ryan speaks to more than 20,000 kids at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada at WE DAY.
Photo courtesy of Samuel Robinson.

When it comes to balancing his business and his personal life, Ryan makes sure to take care of school stuff first before recycling. Although, there are some days that he does take off for out of town events, Ryan does homework in the hotel room or on the plane so he does not get behind in his classwork. “Most of the school staff knows what he does and are very helpful with accommodating his travel schedule with school,” says Damion.

A Better Place
For now, Ryan is going to keep recycling, meet more people and show them how to recycle the right way. Currently, he donates all of the profits from the sales of his company t-shirts on his Web site to The Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, CA, a place he has been going to since he was a baby. When his recycling story went viral, Ryan began selling his shirts all over the planet. “We discussed giving the money from his shirts to an organization who needed the help and he immediately wanted to help the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. We have been selling the shirts for about 2 ½ years and he’s been able to donate over $8,000 to help the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. They also recycle at the center and Ryan picks up their cans and bottles as well, so everybody wins,” says Damion.

One of Ryan’s Recycling awareness events in Aliso Viejo, CA with Valet Living.
Photo courtesy of Ryan’s Recycling

Ryan says, “Recycling has helped me support their organization and we’re working with companies like Sand Cloud, Valet Living and Busch Systems to make the world a better place through recycling and recycling awareness.”

For more information, e-mail [email protected] or visit You can also contact Damion Hickman at (949) 916-9888.


2017 Ellen Show
2017 Pickler & Ben Show
2017 Ryan Seacrest Radio Show
2017 CNN Heroes
2018 WE DAY (Los Angeles & Vancouver events)
2018 #ROADLIFE (episode 5)
2018 KBS Documentary: Goodbye Plastic
2018 Independence Films: Selfless
2018 Chapman University
2018 CSU San Bernardino

2016 DAR Certificate of Recognition
2017 Festival of Children “FRED” Award
2017 Lily’s Hero’s Award
2017 City of San Juan Capistrano Certificate of Recognition
2017 Pacific Marine Mammal Center’s “Philanthropist of the Year”
2017 CNN Young Wonder Award
2017 OC Register’s 100 Most Influential People
2017 San Juan Capistrano “Citizen of the Year”
2017 DAR Certificate of Recognition
2018 MSN Top 15 Kids Changing the World List
2018 Recycling Champion Award – OC Waste & Recycling
2018 County of Orange Certificate of Recognition
2018 Wyland Foundation’s Ambassador For The Planet Award
2018 Action For Nature ECO-HERO Award
2018 Barron Prize Young Hero Honoree
2018 Paradigm Challenge 2nd Place Award
2018 International Bottled Water Association Recycling Champion Award