In this week’s NothingWasted! podcast, we chat with 11-year-old Ryan Hickman, CEO of Ryan’s Recycling in Orange County, California. Ryan is one of our 2020 Waste360 40 Under 40 Award winners (the youngest ever) and the recipient of our new Changemaker Award, which recognizes leaders who are creating real, meaningful, positive change in the waste, recycling and organics industry.
We spoke with the young recycler about building his business, why he loves it, what he has been up to during the pandemic, and more.
Here’s a sneak peek into the fun chat:
Waste360: Can you tell us how you got started with recycling?
Hickman: My dad took me to the recycling center for the first time when I was 3 ½; I loved it and saw that recycling was helping the environment—and I just wanted to keep recycling!
Waste360: I know you keep track of how many cans and bottles you collect; will you share your latest number?
Hickman: I’ve recycled maybe about 1.3 million.
Waste360: Wow! And has the pandemic changed how you and your dad recycle now?
Hickman: Yes, we’re collecting a lot more because everybody is staying home and drinking more. An average customer used to call about every month-and-a-half with four white kitchen bags. Now they’re calling us every three weeks with like 10 white kitchen bags.
Waste360: Are you still planning on doing this when you grow up?
Hickman: Most likely…yes!
Waste360: What else are you thinking about?
Hickman: Well, I just started a new nonprofit called Project 3R. Tons of people wanted to donate money before, but we couldn’t accept it because we weren’t a nonprofit. Now we can finally accept it. Let’s say we wanted to go to Kenya and teach people about building a recycling center; it will pay for us to go there and teach them. Or if we’re doing a beach cleanup and need more supplies, we can fund that.