A San Antonio 5-year-old boy may be small in stature, but his passion to get everyone to recycle is larger than life. His name is Ethan Charles, and one day, he wants to be the best garbage inspector around.
“He was born May 2, and it was awesome,” said Ciara Marie Charles, Ethan’s mom. “From the moment he was born, you could tell he was a genius.”
Charles said Ethan’s fascination with garbage, garbage trucks and recycling started when he was just 2 years old.
“We would drive, and he would see road construction on the highway,” Charles said. “He just really wanted to learn. ‘What is that truck? What is this truck?’ That all led to garbage trucks, and we thought it would be just a little phase, like something all kids go through, but he really got passionate.”
To say Ethan became a sponge is an understatement.
“He just soaks up everything,” said Eduardo Charles, Ethan’s dad. “He was watching YouTube videos where there were two guys working their neighborhood, and then as he got older, he started asking about it all. ‘What does the green cart mean? What does the brown cart mean? What is the difference between those carts? What is recycling?'”
“Now we were getting in trouble with our 2-year-old if we put a shampoo container in the trash,” Ciara Charles said. “Then his vocabulary started getting bigger. Here we have my 3-year-old son saying hazardous waste and disposable chemicals.”
They said Ethan’s passion for his new love had an impression on his toys, his family life and others he met in the community.
“It went from a small collection of trash bins and garbage trucks to a large collection,” Ciara Charles said. “Any time we would go to the store for groceries, he would ride on the cart and lift cereal boxes up and in the basket as if he was a garbage man. We also always had to go to the trash can isle. We couldn’t even leave the house until the garbage truck came. Mondays and Thursdays, we have to stay at home pretty much until they leave. I have also had to follow the garbage truck around our neighborhood.”
“Any time we are on the road and he sees a garbage truck, like on the way to his grandma’s or something, he screams: ‘Garbage truck! Garbage truck!’ He just loves it all,” Eduardo Charles said.
A homeschooling event hosted by the San Antonio Solid Waste Management Department has also had a lot to do with Ethan’s knowledge on solid waste management.
“Let’s start with organics,” Ethan said. “The organics cart is green. Then let’s go over to the brown cart, the one that has trash in it. That cart is brown. You can also downsize it if you call 311. Then there is another cart, which is blue. That is recycling!”
“Anyone that he runs into, it is all about recycling,” Eduardo Charles said. “'Do you recycle? What carts do you use?’ Anyone who comes into his circle, they are instantly enamored by him.”
The family said Ethan has also done his share of not only cleaning up around his neighborhood, but also helping anyone who needs resources to recycle get them.
“Anybody who needed a trash can, he was ready to buy them one,” Ciara Charles said. “Or a recycling bin. We have bought plenty for people because they didn’t have one and they needed a recycling bin. More people are recycling. People we never thought would recycle are recycling because of him.”
After doing his own research, reading library books and becoming great friend with employees of the San Antonio Solid Waste Management Department, Ethan knows all of the parts to garbage and recycling vehicles, as well as the consequences behind not following recycling rules.
“Sometimes you get a friendly reminder first, but warnings are the best,” Ethan said. “What would you do without a recycling bin? You would have to put the plastic in the brown cart. We want to recycle, right? Let’s say you had some pizza boxes in the blue cart. What would that cost? A warning, right? If I put bulky collection in the brush collection, that is called spoiling your brush collection. Recycling is important because you don’t want to spoil your neighborhood, do you? No, you don’t.”
Ciara Charles said while speaking with his friends with the city, they got one of the best compliments.
“The supervisor said, 'I need to hire him because he knows more stuff than the actual people who work here,'” she laughed.
The family said not only do they hope Ethan’s passion to recycle inspires others to do so, as well, but they also want this to be a parenting tip.
“When I was a young child, I wanted to be a teacher, and that is exactly what happened,” Ciara Charles said. “If your child is passionate about something, no matter what it is, support it to the fullest extent. You never know what it may turn out to be for their future. Now, we are seeing Ethan’s career develop before our eyes, and it is amazing. That support is just really important, especially at such a young age.”
If you know someone like Ethan who is making a difference in the South Texas community or who has a unique story, send us your tips. Contact Japhanie Gray on Facebook or @JGrayKSAT on Twitter. You can also send your tips to KSAT 12 & KSAT.com on Facebook.