The rainbow loom dilemma

My six-year-old son will be having a tonsillectomy in a few days. He’s pretty scared about it, but the promise of a special gift for being brave is helping him get through the anxiety. I asked him what he would like for his gift and he immediately answered ‘a Rainbow Loom’. They’re all nuts about them in his class at school, and I imagine they’re quite good for improving dexterity. Sure, why not? Plus it will be something to keep him occupied while he’s recuperating from his operation.

Then I read the news reports about Illinois banning personal care products containing microbeads. If you haven’t heard, these microbeads are too small to be filtered out by wastewater facilities, so they end up in the lakes where they coat the floor and choke out plant life. Unfortunately marine life mistake them for fish eggs and eat them. Because they can’t be digested, their gut fills with plastic causing them to starve to death.

Now up until I read about this problem, I had no idea that the microbeads exfoliating my face were actually made from plastic. Considering the size of the problem caused by these microbeads in what is a pretty short time span, I have to say it caused my under-utilised brain to get quite hurty as I pondered the situation. After chucking out my face wash, I wondered what else I should be looking at to reduce my carbon footprint. Then it hit me. The gift my son coveted; the one that all the kids in his class had that required all those tiny, synthetic rubber bands, could be just as damaging to the environment. With all the knock-off looms and bands manufactured with lower quality-control and emission standards now appearing in shops,  it’s easy to imagine the potential environmental consequences.

When my son brought home a bracelet that one of the kids in his class had made for him, it didn’t take long for it to break, scattering little rubber bands around the house. I often see them lying around on the footpaths on our walk to and from school too. I wasn’t able to stop my dog from ingesting a couple when the food my daughter dropped fell on top of them. Given how messy my kids are, it doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to figure that those little bands would end up all over the show, and knowing my luck I’d discover that one of those things has made it into my crack when I’m having a pap smear!

Is Rainbow Loom bad for the environment? asked the Washington Post. According to the author there are certainly some issues but, rather than seeing them as a danger, we should be using the environmental impact as an opportunity to educate our children to cut each rubber band before discarding into the rubbish bin. Hmm, call me cynical, but I’m pretty sure the novelty of cutting open the rubber bands will soon wear off, as will their ability to walk all the way to the rubbish bin.

Like all fads, this one could be over quite quickly, and whether there are any environmental repercussions remains to be seen. In the mean time I have chosen to educate my children by not buying one at all.* Once I explained how the rubber bands could hurt animals and his beloved marine life my son quickly changed his mind.  So if anyone wants me during his recovery you’ll probably find me hiding in the wardrobe so that I don’t have to have yet another battle with the Beyblade warriors he’s now asking for.


* Note: Non-purchase of rainbow loom was in no way influenced by fears of anatomical hiding places favoured by loom bands.




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