7-Year-Old Makes $21,000 Recycling 200,000 Cans & Bottles & Inspires Us All

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Do you remember what you were doing with your spare time when you were 7 years old? I have a few vague recollections that mostly involved staring into space, talking to my dog, and brushing my doll's hair. Which is a far cry from what Ryan Hickman of California has been up to: This 7-year-old made $21,000 recycling 200,000 cans and bottles. His parents want him to save up for college; He's thinking he might like a garbage truck instead.

It all started with a routine chore that most kids (not to mention adults) often dread: Little Ryan Hickman got hooked on waste management by joining his dad on daily trips to the local recycling center when he was just 3 years old. Ryan's dad, Damien Hickman, told KGTV News that it was love at first sight:

We had gone to the center with a couple of bags, and he really loved the actual act of putting all the cans and bottles into the machine and getting the money for it, and that kind of got him hooked.

Since his early days as an amateur recycling aficionado, Ryan has moved up through the ranks to become a professional. The 7-year-old (not a typo) is now the president of Ryan's Recycling Company.

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And since getting hooked on recycling four years ago, Ryan's business has steadily grown. According to his company website:

The day after going to the recycling center, Ryan notified his mom and dad that he wanted to give empty plastic bags to all the neighbors and maybe they would save their recyclables for him. Not only did the local neighbors save their cans and bottles for Ryan but so did their friends, families and co-workers. Today, Ryan has customers all over Orange County, CA and he has a passion to recycle that is amazing. Ryan spends a part of every week sorting thru cans and bottles from his customers and getting them ready to take to the recycle center.

His business has gotten serious attention beyond his neighborhood, too: In 2016, Ryan appeared on The Ellen Show as a guest to talk about recycling.

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While Ryan may have raised over $21,000 towards his college fund/garbage truck (whichever he and his parents choose), he's made it clear that recycling isn't just about the money for him. "What I’m doing keeps bottles and cans out of the ocean," he told Today's Parent. "That helps the environment."

Ryan puts his money where his mouth is; He is the Youth Ambassador at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, and donates some of his earnings to the volunteer program there, but his hope for the future still lies elsewhere. As he reiterated to Today's Parent:

My parents want me to save my money for college, but I want to save for a garbage truck.

Not going to lie... a part of me hopes he gets his garbage truck.