10-year-old 'Recycling Guy' cleans up the streets of Yellowknife

James Peggs decided at the age of eight, that he needed to 'do something' about his community's lack of curbside recycling.

'The most disgusting thing I ever found… somebody's leftover roast beef,' says 10-year-old entrepreneur

James Peggs, 10, started his recycling business two years ago. It grew from just five customers to 27. (Priscilla Hwang/CBC)

Every Saturday morning, 10-year-old James Peggs goes to work.

First, he puts on his gear: a bright orange construction vest, tailored by grandma; on it, a silver name tag engraved with his name; lastly, a white baseball cap embossed with a green recycling triangle.

Peggs then goes into the garage, grabs his wooden crate with winter wheels, and he begins to haul it up and down curbs, winding down streets, visiting his clients.

Peggs is Yellowknife's 'Recycling Guy' — a business he created after moving from Saskatchewan in 2015.

Peggs starts his work day by rolling his wooden crate through his neighbourhood, collecting his clients' recyclables. (Priscilla Hwang/CBC)

"When we moved here, my brother had his own job as a babysitter, so I asked my parents, what am I gonna do for money?" said Peggs who was only eight at the time.

Peggs said he began to notice something about Yellowknife.

This is sort of one of the coolest things I've seen happen on Matonabee Street.- Judy Murdock, a customer

"I would be going on my bike… and there were just cans, like you could see them in the forest," said Peggs.

"I wanted to do something about it."

In a city where there is no curbside recycling, residents have to drive to the nearest recycling depot to sort and recycle their own goods.

With the help of his parents, Peggs came up with a business plan and the Recycling Guy was born.

"Most people think that recycling is a waste of time, but our Earth is very polluted, it's very sick, and it needs help."

Roast beef and mint-scented bags

Peggs is the middleman for his customers.

"I bring you a big tub, and on Saturday mornings, you throw all your recycling in it, and you don't have to sort it," Peggs said.

He'll dump all the recyclables in his wagon — or his dad's truck for clients further away —  and brings it back to his garage to sort, before taking it to the community recycling bins.

Peggs brings all the sorted recyclables to the depot and dumps them in the appropriate bins. (Priscilla Hwang/CBC)

Peggs has his own intricate sorting system, and once he begins, it's like clockwork.

With little hands, he unscrews bottle caps, crushes cardboard, and tosses plastic bottles in their own designated bin. 

Once in awhile, he finds a surprise.

"I found a pair of shoes once," said Peggs.

Peggs looks back while dragging his overflowing wooden crate on his Saturday route around the neighbourhood. (Priscilla Hwang/CBC)

"But the most disgusting thing I ever found… I found somebody's leftover roast beef. And I saw macaroni and cheese in it!" said Peggs, scrunching his nose.

"I was like, I'm not touching that," he said. "The next few days, it smelled like roast beef, but it wasn't good roast beef."

His solution: "I bought mint-scented bags, so it made the garage smell better."

'Reliable, punctual, remarkable young man'

His customers say he's "like a real businessman."

This is Peggs' second year running, and he recently got a business licence from the city.

Peggs got his business licence with the city this year. (Priscilla Hwang/CBC)

Peggs now serves 27 regular clients, after starting from just five, among which is the Super 8 hotel in town. He charges $10 a month for his services.

"He's very reliable, very punctual — just a remarkable young man," says Judy Murdock, one of his first clients and a Yellowknifer of 30 years. 

"This is sort of one of the coolest things I've seen happen on Matonabee Street. He really has made a difference in the neighbourhood."

Murdock says James made her more aware of her own recycling habits.

"What it's done is it reinforces the message that one person can make a real difference."

10 per cent for charity, 10 for retirement

Peggs is a lover of the environment and wildlife; he says he won't even kill a spider.

He puts 10 per cent of his income into his "giving jar," to donate to a wildlife organization called Earth Rangers.

"And then I put 10 per cent into my retirement account," said Peggs.

The rest goes into his "car account."

"I want to show kids that you can do it. Like you can beat your goals," said Peggs.

His dream car? 

"A Camaro," he said. "Because it's a sports car. And it looks cool."


Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang


Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang is a reporter with CBC News based in Ottawa. She's worked with the investigative unit, CBC Toronto, and CBC North in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. She has a Master of Journalism from Carleton University. Want to contact her? Email


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