Plastic production has jumped more than 320 per cent over three decades, amounting in about 300 million tons of plastic pieces introduced into circulation annually—85 per cent of which is never recycled. Once discarded or brought to the landfill, the wind or scavengers carry it away where about ten per cent of it finds its way to waterways and, eventually, the ocean. In fact, 80 per cent of ocean waste originates from land, and 90 per cent of that is plastic. Some statistics say there are more pieces of plastic in the ocean than fish. Plastic’s long shelf life becomes the bane of ocean life’s existence, as pieces break down slowly and into microplastics, which cause health complications for ocean creatures that mistake them for food.
Ryan Hickman of San Juan Capistrano, California was inspired to do something to help while making some cash. The then-three year old decided the recycling business was for him after visiting the local recycling centre with his parents.
Ryan’s Recycling’s website, which represents seven-year-old Ryan’s now-active business, says after that first trip to the recycling centre he told his parents he wanted to give each of his neighbours plastic bags with which to collect their recyclables to pick up. His parents ran with it, and Ryan’s Recycling was born.
Hickman collects all returnables from neighbours and friends, and sorts them by type – plastic, aluminum, and glass – and brings them to the recycling centre. He is saving the money collected to fund his future college education, though, according to his website, he may tell you he is saving for a full-sized waste collection truck of his own.
Hickman has appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show and hundreds of websites internationally, and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach made him a youth ambassador. PMMC is a rescue facility that advocates for ocean health and awareness of more than 700 marine species currently threatened with extinction. Proceeds from Ryan’s Recycling t-shirts go to help PMMC’s rescue efforts.
Hickman collects recycling from his customers on a regular cycle. He dedicates time each week for sorting and makes weekly trips to cash in his collectables, given to him by neighbours, friends, family, and co-workers of the adults in his life. He will, with the help of his parents, make pick-ups anywhere in Orange County.
As of January this year he has recycled over 200,000 bottles and cans and donated $1,624 to charity.
For more information please visit www.ryansrecycling.com.
Plastic Waste Facts
- Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
- 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
- Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
- Ocean pollution kills more than one million sea birds each year.
- Discarded fishing nets kill approximately 300,000 dolphins and porpoises every year.
- The ocean garbage site off the coast of California called North Pacific Gyre is the largest garbage site in the world and twice the size of Texas.
- It is estimated that every square mile of ocean has more than 45,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.