Sam Klein

Sam Klein started a nonprofit that recycles old printer cartidges and electronics. Photo: Yana Hotter

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

For some would-be entrepreneurs, starting a business can be an endeavor a lifetime in the making. The same was true of Sam Klein when he founded his company.

Of course Klein’s life was only nine years long at the time.

“I knew it was different from the day I started it and if I didn’t feel like this was going to work I wouldn’t have tried it,” said Klein, now 14. “I said let’s try this and see how it goes.”

So far, it has gone pretty well. Klein, who will enter high school in the Parkway District this fall, runs RecycleCharityGroup, a not-for-profit outfit which accepts donations of used printer cartridges, old laptop computers and other castoff electronics which can then be resold for recycling. After operating expenses, the proceeds go to various philanthropic causes.

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The idea is to help both charitable ventures and the environment. Klein said he began to formulate the concept out of an interest he had in garbage trucks as early as age 5. Soon, he began talking to people at garbage hauling companies and learned more about recycling.

Before long, his research led him to electronics and printing gear. A used print cartridge might bring in anywhere from a few cents to $25.

“I knew that there couldn’t be many other kids out there doing the same thing I’m doing,” he said.

Moreover, Klein says people can feel good about giving away their old devices.

“If you go out there, you can without a doubt find places that will accept these items, recycle them and reuse them,” he said. “Or you can donate it and you know we’re going to use this money to help people who really need it.”

Klein’s donations go to a variety of philanthropic concerns, many of them focused on the homeless, particularly homeless children.

The donated recyclables come from various sources such as collection boxes in places of business. He also takes damaged products to recycle.

“That’s nice because we are not using unnecessary materials,” he said.

“We don’t want to waste things because we know there is a limited amount. Once we use that, we are  not going to be able to keep making cartridges.”

Klein said that he isn’t the only one who can start a business or assist others. Anyone can do good things.

“If they put their mind to it thinking that they can help the environment or charity or both, they could do what I’m doing very well,” he said.

“I started out very little and got very big,” he added. “I know that other people can do it too.”

Between school and work, Klein said he sometimes finds himself waking up before sunrise to get everything done. Still, he loves to take on new projects.

“I either say ‘Sam, you are crazy. Are you kidding me? You are going to try this?’” he said, “or I say ‘Yes, Sam you are crazy. You’re going to try this and it is going to work.’ Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, it is ‘Yes, you are going to try this and it is going to work.’”

Charlie Foxman, Klein’s martial arts instructor, said he’s always had a good feeling about the young man.

“I’ve taught martial arts for 30 years,” he said. “I’ve taught thousands but there are certain kids who come through the school where I can pick them out and say, ‘He or she is going to be something someday. I really feel that he will be something someday. You will read about him.”

Foxman said that Klein’s commitment to the community is clear.

“He is a very unique young man. He’s very caring, loves to help other,” he said. “That’s obvious from what he does.”

Klein agrees.

“It makes me very happy. Every time I hand over a check, I feel a little sense of pride,” he said. “It’s like when you are running and you get that extra surge of energy that makes you want to go faster and faster. You just feel like, ‘Wow, I’m really doing this.’”

Moreover, he says he’s in the business for the long-haul. He intends to make his company his career.

The goal is to help as many of his fellow citizens as possible.

“I want to do my best to see how I can make people’s lives better,” Klein said. “If I can, great. If not, then I’m going to keep trying because I know that there is need out there.”


Sam Klein

Age: 14

Residence: Creve Coeur

Quote: “It makes me very happy. Every time I hand over a check, I feel a little sense of pride. It’s like when you are running and you get that extra surge of energy that makes you want to go faster and faster. You just feel like, ‘Wow, I’m really doing this.’”