Seven-year-old Ryan Hickman develops his own recycling business and garners $20,000

Ryan Hickman is a 7 year old from San Juan Capistrano, and takes recycling very seriously. Starting at a ripe age of 3 1/2, he runs his own recycling business, Ryan’s Recycling, which has raised $10,000 from recycling roughly 200,000 bottles and cans. Hickman has been recognized in more than 24 different countries and throughout the United States, and has received hundreds of letters from inspired children around the world. He has raised awareness to the recycling problem that stands and the only intent of his little heart is to “help protect the planet,” Hickman says.

Hickman wants to grow up to be a garbage man and help keep the planet clean, but recycling is not the only way he is accomplishing that. His father Damian Hickman, a graphic designer, created T-shirts for Ryan’s business. And 100 percent of the proceeds of Ryan’s Recycling T-shirts go to The Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, which helps fund the care and protection that goes into rescuing injured or sick marine mammals.

Ryan Hickman, 7, hard at work collecting recyclables for his business. ( Taya Buehler-Reagan)

Ryan Hickman, 7, hard at work collecting recyclables for his business. ( Taya Buehler-Reagan)

“I like to recycle because then bottles and cans won’t go into the ocean, and then animals won’t get sick and they won’t die,” Hickman says.

Hickman has garnered celebrity recognition, landing himself on ABC, and several local news channels. He has also been acknowledged on “The Ellen Show”, where Shutterfly gave him a $10,000 check (which now lands him at a whopping $20,000). Ellen also gifted him with a personalized truck to pick up garbage around the neighborhood. This brings him one step closer to his dream of owning a real life garbage truck, once he earns $75,000.

“Once he gets his mind made up to do something, he is on it,” Damian Hickman says. “We weren’t sure on this whole recycling thing, if this was going to last a couple weeks or what not. And now its four years later and he is still excited about it.”

Hickman’s active efforts were recognized by the members of the San Juan Capistrano City Council, who presented him with a conservative award on Tuesday, Feb.7. His ambitious efforts to spending every waking moment recycling have inspired many who surround him.

Recycling is a lifestyle for Hickman, as he finds trash lying around the house, he will opt to throw it in the recycling bin. He organizes all of the trash and puts each metal can, plastic bottle and glass bottle in its proper bin. Hickman also takes the time to sort through the mail each day, organizing the trash mail from the important mail, tossing the junk mail into the recycling bin he keeps by his side. He does this simply because he has a desire to, and because he enjoys it.

“It was more of just something fun to do and then the more he found out, wow, this is good for the environment,” Damian Hickman says. “And it just kind of took off from there.”

He has had support from all over the city, including his friends, family, schoolmates, neighbors and whoever may email Ryan’s dad to have their recycling picked up. They currently pick up recyclables from five different neighborhoods, a local golf course and several different local businesses. Hickman’s family has been along for the ride every step of the way, and continues to support him.

“Whatever he wants to do we will support him,” Damian Hickman says. “I’m hoping he continues with whatever his passion is.”

Hickman has not only had a large impact on his community, but on many people that he encounters. He made a profound impact on his first grade teacher, Suzanne Devaney, who has also supported him from day one. She helps him recycle around the school, and encourages other parents to bring in bags of bottles and cans, all while she sports a green Ryan’s Recycling T-shirt.

“Over 27 years of teaching and I have never had somebody this driven for a passion of something,” says Devaney with tears in her eyes. “And that is why I think he is really unique.”

Hickman intends to continue running his business and pursue a career as a garbage man. And he hopes other people will “start recycling to help the planet too,” Hickman says.

Reporter: Taya Buehler-Reagan

Videographer: Holly Bartlow

Producer: Daniela Sanchez

Editor: Heather Wieshlow

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Nanny, travel/Disney enthusiast, and journalism major. Transferring to Cal State Monterey in Fall 2017.

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