In January 2019, Waste Advantage Magazine profiled 9-year-old Ryan Hickman, a young recycling entrepreneur who not only had already started his own recycling business, Ryan’s Recycling, but also made it his mission to educate people about the benefits of recycling and the most efficient way to do it. Now 14, Ryan truly represents the next generation of waste and recycling by continuing to give keynotes around the world while developing new companies and continuing to build partnerships.
How has your business grown since 2018? How much more have you collected? Have you expanded your business into any other surrounding communities?
I’m still collecting every week from people who ask me to pick up their cans and bottles through Ryan’s Recycling and, so far, I’ve recycled nearly 1.9 million containers. I think I’ll reach 2 million by early 2024. In June 2021, I helped start a company called Recycle from Home that is a pilot program with CalRecycle in the State of California. We partner with local cities and provide a PICK UP and PAY service for residents and businesses. Basically, we bring the recycling center to the customer, and we make recycling easier. We’ve recycled more than 154 tons of cans and bottles so far and paid residents nearly $267,000 for their CA CRV items. How cool is that?
Have you developed any new partnerships?
Recycle from Home is my biggest partnership since I’m a founder, but over the past few years, I’ve started a nonprofit called Project3R, which leads beach clean-up events and education classes in elementary and middle schools about the importance of recycling and taking care of our planet. I love making a difference and I’m super proud of both Project3R and Recycle from Home. Two years ago, I partnered with Old Navy and H&M to lead global campaigns for each about recycling. I’ve partnered with the Anaheim Ducks NHL team to do an annual beach clean-up and recycle drives at the Honda Center during hockey games. I have a partnership with Busch Systems, which is a company in Canada that makes trash and recycle bins out of recycled material. We’re developing a recycle bin aimed at a younger audience and I’m looking forward to working with them in many ways.
Do you still sell t-shirts/donate to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center?
I do! Proceeds from every Ryan’s Recycling shirt go to help support their organization and I collect all of their recyclable items too. A few times a year, I lead fundraising efforts on social media for them and I also speak to kids in summer camp classes there about taking care of our planet.
How have you continued to spread the word about the importance of recycling?
I love speaking at events and I’ve done many keynote speeches. I’ve traveled all around the world and spoke at events all over the U.S. and in many other countries too. I’ve got speaking events in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Los Angeles coming up over the next few months. I’ve gone on a lot of TV shows like Good Morning America and the Today Show, I was a guest on the Ellen show a few times and I was even interviewed by Lester Holt for NBC Nightly News. I think when some people see a kid like me recycling, they realize it’s easy to do and they start doing it as well. I hope I can inspire many more people to do the same.
What is your outlook on the current state of recycling?
Here in California, we saw a big decrease in recycling because it wasn’t as easy as it once was. A lot of the recycle centers that were around when I first started 10 years ago aren’t around anymore and people needed a better way to recycle. That’s why we started Recycle from Home and that’s why I still collect recyclables from anyone in my community who calls me to pick up. I am excited to see a lot of companies making more compostable packaging and recyclable items instead of single use plastic items. I think every little bit makes a difference. It just takes people to step up and make changes. I know I inspire a lot of people to recycle and I’m going to keep at it as long as I possibly can.
What are your thoughts on the best way to get people involved in recycling and keeping these items out of the landfill?
I think educating people is the best way to get people on board. Showing people how to make daily changes and explaining the results is powerful. I also know that paying people and making it easy to recycle are huge incentives to recycle instead of just throwing away items. I wish that every single state had a bottle bill program to pay consumers for their plastic bottles and other recyclables. I do beach clean ups every week and I pick up a lot of washed-up trash. Recycling keeps items out of the ocean and landfills and that’s a good thing for everyone. I also post a lot on social media trying to encourage followers of my pages to recycle as much as they can.
What is next for you?
I just started High School this year so I’m hoping to implement an environmental awareness program in my school like I did in elementary and middle school. I plan to grow our business and my Project3R nonprofit as much as I can as well. I love traveling, so I hope to go to Africa someday and maybe help start a recycling program there. I get thousands of messages and e-mails every month from people all over the world asking for help starting a recycling program where they live. I don’t have the ability to help everyone yet, but I hope I can give them advice to take small steps like I did to make a difference. When we all do a little bit together, it adds up to big results.
Good Morning America: youtube.com/watch?si=iyZMVNLF0H-RokHc&v=HIyGTqVjnjM&feature=youtu.be
NBC Nightly News: youtube.com/watch?si=xAkl0KmiISwTD8ag&v=QZR8Ia_iJC4&feature=youtu.be
Ellen Show: youtube.com/watch?v=cnCfimBvdDI
ABC 7 News: youtube.com/watch?v=wpz5eVg9ajU