Paint Can Plan
Michael Weyne wanted to help people recycle their paint cans. Now he does it as a business.
Two years ago, Michael Weyne was listening to an episode of the How I Built This podcast. It featured a company that hauls away unwanted items and either donates or recycles them, all while making money.
A lightbulb went off in Michael’s head. He’d heard a neighbor complaining about paint cans taking up space in his garage. “I wish someone would come take them away,” the neighbor said. Michael thought, “I can do that.” The Paint Can Kid was in business.
Michael, 12, lives in Chappaqua, New York. New York is one of about a dozen states where paint and paint cans can’t just be thrown out. They have to be recycled in a very specific way. Michael figured that if his neighbor was struggling with his paint cans, others were too. He was right. In two years, he’s had more than 600 customers, and he’s made nearly $10,000—all while helping the planet.
How It Works
Michael promotes his service online and by handing out flyers. His business has grown by word of mouth. When people contact him, he schedules pickups, which he and his dad do twice a week. Michael charges a minimum of $20 for 10 cans. Most customers end up paying around $50. One hired him to pick up 200 cans. It took two trips.
Michael donates new or nearly-full cans to Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for people in need. Otherwise, he pries off the lids, pours all the paint into a giant bucket, and lets it dry out. Eventually, it forms a rubbery mass, which he shreds and turns into nontoxic mulch.
The cans, which are made of steel, get crushed and recycled. Last Earth Day, Michael recycled 150 cans at his local recycling center. This year, he plans to recycle 2,000.
As with any business, there are costs and challenges. Michael and his dad had to officially incorporate and trademark the business with the help of an attorney. They also had to learn about paying business taxes.
Michael saves most of the money he makes for unforseen issues. “If something happened to the van and I had no money to fix it, we’d go out of business,” he says. Also, if Michael can’t make a pickup, he pays his brother or sister $20 for the day to cover his duties.
Michael hopes to expand his business by hiring other employees or turning The Paint Can Kid into a franchise . “And if I decide to do something else,” he adds, “I’d love to hand the business off to one of my siblings.” —By Kathryn Tuggle
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