In honor of World Oceans Month, we’re highlighting some extraordinary young folks doing their very best to make a difference. Today on the blog, read on to learn more about how Ryan Hickman of Ryan's Recycling Company is inspiring real environmental change to save our oceans, the planet, and give us all hope!
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Ryan and I’m 9 years old. I have my own recycling company and I love animals and the environment.
2. What motivated you to start recycling?
My dad took me to the local recycling center when I was about 3 years old and I just loved it. I just wanted to keep doing it. We live near the beach and I could see trash in the water and I wanted to make a difference.
I would like people to know that recycling is easy to do and if we all do a little bit, it makes a big difference. We try to limit the amount of plastic packaging we buy on products. I also don't use plastic straws and I'm trying to limit the number of plastic water bottles I use.
4. How does recycling affect the ocean specifically?
When we recycle, things like plastic bottles and six-pack rings and straws don't end up in landfills and in the ocean. That way, animals don't get caught in or eat our plastic pollution. Also, the big one is that the Great Garbage Patch doesn't get any bigger. This one is an important one.
6. Marine life is so important for the ocean’s ecosystem. We saw that you are also an ambassador at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Can you tell us more about what you do for them?
I sell my company t-shirts all over the world and I donate all of the money to my friends at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. They use the money to buy food and medicine for sick and injured seals and sea lions. I love going by their center and seeing all the animals getting better.
7. If you could change anything about the way we recycle, what would it be?
Here in California, I get five cents when I recycle a plastic water bottle. I wish it was that way in every state because I think everyone would recycle more if they were encouraged to do so. I'm working with Recycle Across America to help teach people how to recycle right. A lot of people don't really know what stuff gets recycled and what stuff doesn't so they guess and sometimes throw trash in the recycling. I think if we had labels on bins that showed people what to throw in each bin, it would help out the recycling system a lot.
8. What is your next goal for Ryan’s Recycling?
I just passed the 500,000 recycled items mark so now I'm working my way to a million. I hope to someday have a big recycling business where I could recycle more and more. I also love traveling and talking to people about recycling because that way everyone will learn to recycle better.
9. How have your parents supported your efforts?
My parents help me when I'm overloaded with recycling to sort, they drive me to my customers for pickups and to the recycling center. My dad schedules all of my travel and partnership stuff with companies like Recycle Across America, Valet Living, Busch Systems and Sand Cloud.
10. What advice do you have for other kids who have an interest in the environment but aren’t quite sure where to start?
Follow your passion and believe in yourself and what you're doing. I'm only 9 years old and if a kid like me can do it, so can you. Even if you only can do a little bit for the environment, it's still good to do and when we all do a little bit, it adds up to a lot.
11. How can our readers support your efforts?
I would love it if all of your readers recycle the best they can and if they see a piece of trash on the ground, please pick it up and of course, don't litter. If anyone would like to buy one of my shirts off of my web site, they will be saving animals so that's an easy way to make a difference and you get a cool shirt too!
12. Is there anything you would like to add?
Recycling is as easy as making sure that cans, bottles and other recyclable items go in the right bin. You don't have to be crazy about recycling like me to make a difference. Even one piece of trash picked up that doesn't end up in the ocean or picked up by a bird thinking it is food, is a good thing.
Questions for Ryan’s parents:
13. How did you go about teaching Ryan so much about recycling and the environment?
To be honest, we didn't really know much about it ourselves but Ryan taught us to be more conscious of what we throw away and we live near the beach so it's easy to see how trash can get down a storm drain and out to the water. We're still learning and we're so lucky that Ryan has the opportunity to help the world learn how to be better at recycling too.
14. What do you do to help keep Ryan inspired and motivated to recycle?
So far we haven't really had to try to motivate Ryan to recycle but we do support him as much as we can. We keep him involved in every decision about his business from the t-shirts he sells to the scheduling of speaking events and answering back emails around the world. With nearly 200 million social media video views, Ryan gets a LOT of email and letters from people all over the world who are inspired by him to keep recycling. He loves hearing from people who recycle because of him.
15. What advice do you have for parents whose children show an interest in the environment?
We suggest supporting your kid's environmental passions as best as you can. Simple things like an hour at the local beach or park doing a trash pick up makes a big difference. You never know where it will lead. They might be the next environmental problem solver or be able to bring light to an issue that more people can learn about. Ryan didn't start recycling to save the planet. He just wanted to clean up his neighborhood and save a little bit of money for his savings account. As he did more and more, he learned how recycling really makes a difference. We never in our wildest dreams imagined our son would inspire millions of people to think more about recycling.
Photos courtesy of Ryan's Recycling.