Seven-year-old saves over $10,000 for university with his own recycling business

Ryan Hickman in a screenshot from a video posted to YouTube by his dad in 2015.
Ryan Hickman in a screenshot from a video posted to YouTube by his dad in 2015.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

LOS ANGELES - An enterprising seven-year-old boy in the US has saved more than US$10,000 (S$14,000) towards his university fees after starting his own recycling business.

Ryan Hickman developed a bug for recycling after tagging along with his dad to a recycling centre four years ago at the age of three.

"We had gone to the centre 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," dad Damion Hickman told ABC News.

While his dad was at work, Ryan and his mum, Andrea Hickman, went to homes in their California neighbourhood distributing plastic bags to neighbours to collect their plastic and glass bottles and cans.

Now at the age of seven, Ryan oversees an operation named Ryan's Recycling that spans close to five neighbourhoods, a golf course and multiple local businesses. The locals drop their recyclables off at the Hickmans’ home, or Ryan and his parents pick them up, said ABC.

The Hickmans, led by Ryan, then drop the recyclables off at the local recycling centre and Ryan saves the money he collects from the plastic bottles.

“I’m his driver and I have to lift the heavy stuff but, to be honest, the focus is him,” Hickman says of his son.

"I've recycled 200,000 cans and bottles," Ryan said.

Every week, he and his family sort through bags of recyclables.

"If it's me, my dad and my mom and my grandma doing it at the same time, one bag will be gone like in, let's say, two minutes," Ryan told ABC.

Ryan’s efforts were recognised on Tuesday (Feb 7) by members of the San Juan Capistrano, California, city council, who presented Ryan with a conservation award, said the US broadcaster.

The youngster, who is also saving to buy his own garbage truck, also sells T-shirts on his website designed by  his dad, who is a graphic designer. Proceeds from sales of the T-shirts are donated to the Pacific Marine Mammal Centre in Laguna Beach.

Ryan's parents hope he continues saving for college, but they say their son is primarily concerned with protecting the environment. He does not want cans and plastic to end up in the ocean.

"That's a big deal to Ryan," his father said.

Said Ryan: "If you already recycle, just keep on recycling. If you don't recycle, start recycling."