SOME children want to be astronauts or racing car drivers when they grow up, but Finn Greenhouse has a different dream – to be a recycling hero.

And the eco-aware York youngster saw his wish become real yesterday as, two days after his fifth birthday, he got a surprise present to remember as he became a recycling collector for the morning.

The treat was organised by City of York Council, who enlisted Finn to help the crews he usually waves to from his bedroom window every morning.

He was given a lift from his home in Hworth to the Eco Depot in Hazel Court in a recycling truck, kitted out in the clothing worn by the authority’s recycling teams – including a hi-visibility jacket with his name on the front – and given a small bin before boarding a collection vehicle as it went through its wash and being shown the duties which the staff perform.

This included giving him the chance to load materials into the vehicle – under supervision – and watch how it is ferried to the back of the wagon.

Finn’s mother Annie said: “We want to say thank you so much to the council for giving Finn this amazing opportunity.

“He has been a budding environmentalist since the age of three and is our eco-conscience, ensuring we turn off lights and computers, and he loves sorting our recycling. The council has made a little boy who wants to save the planet over the moon and I think this will go down as the best birthday surprise in history.”

Finn's interest in recycling began when he took part in a sponsored walk and, when he asked who the money he had raised would help, he was shown pictures of children living on a landfill site.

Annie said: “Ever since then, he has been so environmentally-friendly. Games he plays are based on recycling and he also got a Lego recycling centre for his birthday”.

Finn said: “When I saw the lorry had come to pick me up, I was really excited. I like collecting lots of things for recycling and I definitely want to be a recycling binman when I grow up.”

Coun David Levene, the council’s cabinet member for environmental services – who this week launched the Smarter York project, designed to encourage more people to play a role in keeping York clean - said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that we’ve been able to fulfil Finn’s dreams and it’s so encouraging that, at the age of five, such a young resident is so keen on recycling.

“If everybody took a leaf out of Finn’s book, we could all go a long way to making our city a Smarter York.”