Why This 10-Year-Old Will End Up Running The World

Vanis Buckholz is an eco-entrepreneur who’s owned a recycling business since he was seven years old.
Vanis Buckholz is only ten, but he spends a large portion of his free time picking up his neighbors' recycling. (Photo: My ReCycler)
Jan 31, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Everyone knows that recycling is necessary, but not everyone does something about it. While it’s a little hard to swallow that a fourth grader is doing a better job caring for the environment than most adults, it’s clear this 10-year-old has a lot to teach us.

Vanis Buckholz cares about the environment—a lot. For the past three years, he’s owned and operated his own recycling business in Newport Beach, Calif., which recently earned him the praise of his city’s mayor as well as the local charity he helps support.

The business is called My ReCycler, and it might just make Vanis the youngest eco-entrepreneur in the nation. According to his website, he was inspired by an Earth Day presentation at his school when he was just seven years old. Determined to pitch in, the grammar school student began to recycle his family’s bottles and cans, but soon his home operation morphed into a community-based one; now friends, neighbors and businesses save their recyclables for the fourth grader, who rides his bike around town picking them up by the bagful.

While it may be difficult to believe, Vanis does most of the work on his own. With a trailer hitched to his bicycle, he can ride safely around town making multiple pickups that he temporarily stores at his house. Every few weeks, his parents help him load the goods onto a truck to take to the local recycling plant, where the ten-year-old earns about $200 per visit.

True to form, nothing in Vanis’ operation gets wasted, not even the money he earns. While some is put into savings, 25 percent of it is donated to charity. The fourth grader helps support Project Hope Alliance, an Orange County-based organization that educates homeless children and provides financial stability programs to their parents.

Project Hope Executive Director Jennifer Friend told TakePart, “Vanis understands that entrepreneurs can be active and important partners in solving social issues such as homelessness. To be aware and tenderhearted enough at age ten to get that is amazing. He wants to be a part of the solution and sees that what he does matters to his community. I wonder what our world would look like if every kid realized that.”

His community is especially proud as well; Vanis was recently asked to speak at a local city council meeting where Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry honored him as an outstanding entrepreneur.

While his efforts are impressive, even Vanis doesn’t expect everyone to dedicate their lives to recycling—but they don’t have to. “I always tell my new customers that ‘every little bit matters.’ Even one bottle helps.”

Are eco-businesses like this one the modern-day equivalent of the lemonade stand? Let us know in the Comments.