Parents should perhaps be glad that kids have found a pastime that doesn’t involve their phones and tablets. They’re using their hands as well as creativity and mental acuity to fashion those tiny, brightly colored rubber bands into bracelets and necklaces.
But the craze can get way beyond control. Those loom bands are now everywhere, littering homes, classrooms and playgrounds. Celebrities from the Duchess of Cambridge to football star David Beckham have been seen wearing them. They have also been turned into all sorts of objects and shapes including underwear and entire dresses. American talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel wore a suit made of them!
Environmental groups warn that those millions of loom bands sweeping the planet might soon pose an environmental hazard.
Recycling consultants Waste Connect describes it as a “growing problem”, similar to what happened in 2011 when the Royal Mail started using red rubber rubber bands to help postal workers keep letters together on their rounds, Daily Mail reports.
“The Royal Mail had used over four billion rubber bands but they couldn’t be recycled so people were finding them in the street,” a Waste Connect spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
“Some people were sending them back to the Royal Mail, which was a great idea which saved money as they could be used again.”
But loom bands are a different matter. “Again, they can’t be recycled and when a child does eventually get bored with them and the craze dies out, they will just be taking up space,” she says.
And since the craze has yet to show signs of fading, environmental groups are urging parents and school officials to teach the kids to dispose of them properly.
Aside from the litter they create, improperly discarded bands may be ingested by pets who can choke on them and could find their way into the sea, posing threat to seabirds and marine creatures.
In the United States, a group has launched an online petition seeking a ban on the bands until they can be “produced and recycled in an environmentally sustainable way”.
“Surging demand for Rainbow Looms has led to the development of new rubber plantations in East Asia,” it says. “Not only does rubber production task the regional environment, but it also contributes to air and water pollution. The synthetic materials used to produce the looms are not renewable or recyclable.”
Paul Cox, director of conservation and communication at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, said: “Loom bands, like any plastic item, are capable of persisting in the environment for many, many years and there is abundant evidence of small plastic items making their way into the diets of marine animals and seabirds with tragic consequences.”
Rainbow Loom was invented in 2011 by Cheong Choon Ng, a Malaysian-born former seatbelt technology developer from Michigan, who got his inspiration from his daughters whom he saw weaving elastic bands over their fingers to make bracelets, according to BBC News.
The toy has made him a multi-millionaire, but it has also unleashed a global craze that could be a ticking timebomb for the environment.
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