Attention, people of earth: we have a serious plastic problem. In just 30 years, global plastic production has jumped over 320 percent, which equates to about 300 million tons of plastic pieces coming into circulation every year. If imagining what 300 million tons of plastic looks like isn’t enough to boggle your mind, here’s another scary fact: over 85 percent of that plastic is never recycled. It makes its way from the factories to the stores to our homes, and then, way more often than not, it ends up in landfills instead of the recycling bin. To make matters worse, it doesn’t stay in landfills. Studies have shown that 80 percent of marine trash is land-based and 90 percent of that trash is plastic. Once plastic ends up in the ocean, the world’s marine animals are stuck with it. It can take thousands of years for plastic to break down, and when it does, it only breaks into small pieces known as microplastics.

These facts are some heavy realities to process but in spite of that, we can all do something to help. In fact, one little boy took his passion for recycling and turned it into a business that benefits the planet.

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In 2012, after visiting the local recycling center in Orange County, California, Ryan decided that recycling would be his future. He was three-years-old at the time.

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According to the Ryan’s Recycling 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.” Soon he had a bonafide consumer-base made up of neighbors and community members. 

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He collects and sorts plastic, glass, and tin items then takes them over to the recycling center. Ryan is using the money he’s made from customers to save for his future college education (you really have to get a head start these days). 

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Ryan has also become a Youth Ambassador for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach. Currently, over 700 marine species are threatened with extinction, so this rescue organization can use all the help they can get. All proceeds from Ryan’s Recycling t-shirts go to help PMMC’s volunteer efforts.

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It’s amazing that at such a young age, Ryan is committed to sticking to a regular recycling schedule. He spends a portion of each week sorting recyclables that have been donated by friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers of neighbors and he and his family make weekly trips to the center. So far, he has recycled over 200,000 bottles and cans and donated $1,624 to charity. This kid sure knows how to #CrushPlastic! To learn more about Ryan’s Recycling, visit the official website.

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While efforts are being made to remove debris from the oceans, improve recycling systems, and innovate barriers to prevent plastic from getting into waterways, we can all take action in our daily lives to stop plastic waste at the source.

If we all make an effort to identify where we use plastic and actively look for alternatives, we can drastically cut down on the amount of plastic pollution that finds its way into the oceans.

Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.

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All image source: Ryan’s Recycling

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