When he was just three and a half years old, Ryan Hickman's dad, Damion, took him to the recycling center near their home in California to cash in some cans and bottles. It proved to be a fateful visit, because the next day Ryan decided his future was in recycling. He visited his neighbors, collecting their recyclables and returning them. Four years later, he has stuck with it and grown recycling into a full-blown enterprise.

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There can't be many seven year olds who have 50 customers to look after, but Ryan's passion won't be denied. 

When most kids are outside playing after school, Ryan is helping the school's janitor sort the recycling. Or he's picking up recycling from the neighbors, or from local businesses.

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To date, he's been responsible for more than 200,000 cans and bottles being recycled and he has saved $11,000.

It's not about the money for Ryan, however. "It's because bottles get to the ocean and then animals get sick and die," he told CNN.

In fact, Ryan has a passion for marine life. One of his favorite places to visit is the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

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The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is a pretty big fan of Ryan, too. In addition to the recycling, Ryan makes branded T-shirts and donates the proceeds to the center.

So far, he has raised more than $3,700 from his shirts.

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 "I like to go there and look at sea lions," he says. "And the money that we donate to them gives them medicine and food."

Damion stresses that the business is all about Ryan and his passion, although he does the driving. "My wife and I support him doing it and we told him that whenever he wants to stop, he can," he says.

"I want to see him with friends but the recycling just makes him happy."

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Ryan's efforts have been commended by the city, and he even has ambitions of putting his savings toward a proper recycling truck. His dad says the money is in a college fund, however. 

h/t CNN