Celebrating Earth Day 2022, COVID’s Impact on Cleanup & The Impact of Ryan’s Recycling
We have a big job ahead of us as we celebrate Earth Day 2022! Since entering a global health emergency in January 2020, the immediate increase in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and disposal mismanagement has increased pollution throughout the world. When gloves and masks are discarded carelessly, not only do they contribute to short term environmental pollution, but longer term, they can break down into micro-plastics and potentially enter the food chain.
Just how much is discarded PPE contributing to the litter problem we’re facing? According this research, over the course of 14 months in 11 countries:
- The proportion of masks in litter increased by >80-fold as a result of COVID-19 legislation, from <0.01% to >0.8%.
- Gloves and wipes, more prevalent at ~0.2% of litter before the pandemic, doubled to 0.4%, but this has since fallen.
COVID-related litter, combined with that fact that global plastic production is projected to more than triple by 2050, signifies the importance of celebrating Earth Day each year, from smaller local clean ups to larger scale environmental initiatives. One of our favorite champions of Earth Day is Ryan Hickman, founder of Ryan’s Recycling. We caught up with Ryan before he heads out to make his impact on Earth Day 2022 so that he could share more about his passion for a cleaner environment.
Meet Ryan of Ryan’s Recycling
Unger: Ryan, please share with us about Ryan’s Recycling
Ryan: Ryan’s Recycling is a recycling collection service that I started when I was about 3 1/2 years old (I’m 12 now). My dad and I took a few small bags of bottles to the recycling center, and I just loved it. I asked my neighbors to start recycling with me and it just grew like crazy. I collect cans and bottles weekly from homes and businesses that would have thrown away their recyclable items. Instead, they call me to come and get the items to make sure they get recycled properly. I’ve recycled 1.6 million cans and bottles so far. I take all the recyclable containers to a recycling center to process them.
Unger: What inspired you to start this project?
Ryan: We live near the beach here in Southern California, so my dad and I go pick up trash every weekend for an hour or two at our local beach. We walk the beach with a bucket and an Unger trash grabber. We’ve been doing this since about the time I started recycling so it’s something that is important to me. I see how easy it is for trash and recyclable items to get from our storm drains down to our rivers and oceans and picking those items up when I see them anywhere is a way I can make a difference.
My story went viral in December of 2016 and since then, I’ve won a ton of awards and I’ve been on a lot of tv shows like Ellen and The Today Show. I’ve traveled all over the USA and to other countries talking about what I do and how important recycling and taking care of our planet is.
Unger: Where do you see Ryan’s Recycling in a few years from now? What would you like to see happen long term?
Ryan: I think Ryan’s Recycling will continue to grow and I would like to see everyone recycling. Here in California and 9 other states we have a “bottle bill” which pays people .05¢ each to recycle their bottles. I think if that type of program were available in every state, we’d have more people recycling like I do. I speak to classrooms all the time and I speak at events around the world, so I have a feeling I’ll be doing more of that in the future to inspire people to recycle and pick up trash when they see it.
Last year I started my non-profit organization, Project3R. With Project3R, I’m able to help raise funds and volunteer help to do larger scale community clean ups. We’ve done a few big beach clean ups and I’d love for that to grow worldwide. We still focus on recycling being important, but we also stress the importance of a clean environment for people and animals.
Unger: How can communities support your initiative and keep the environment a safer, cleaner place?
Ryan: Well, the easiest step is to pick up trash when you see it. I pick up at least a piece every day when I’m out. I encourage everyone to recycle and you can support my organization by donating to Project3R.org. You don’t have to live by a beach to lead a cleanup project. I’ve done them in parks and along riverbanks. I’ve even done clean ups at my school and in my neighborhood. Every bit helps and makes a big difference. Follow me on social media
Supporting Litter Clean Up on Earth Day 2022
We are extremely proud of Ryan and his efforts to inspire everyone to lend a hand in making the planet cleaner and healthier. Please join Ryan in the Earth Day 2022 celebration by participating in a cleanup effort, whether you collect one piece or a hundred. And for more information on how you can support Ryan’s Recycling and Project3R, follow Ryan on Instagram.
Considering how you can make a positive impact on Earth Day and every day? Unger has supplied commercial litter removal tools to facilities and organizations that prioritize trash pickup on a daily basis. If we can help you get better equipped for your own efforts to remove unsightly and potentially harmful debris, please contact us.