Let's Not Get Our Wristbands In Such A Wad

Environmental activists the world over are breathlessly indignant that the popular Rainbow Loom wristbands are neither degradable nor recyclable. But are they overreacting?

Rainbow Loom bands, a dangerous trend?
Rainbow Loom bands, a dangerous trend?
Felicitas Kock

MUNICH — Ever since family man David Beckham was spotted wearing a colorful plastic bracelet on his wrist, it's been clear that Rainbow Loom bands are this summer’s trend, with parents playing right along. These plastic rings are everywhere, and suddenly millions of children have discovered a love for crochet and creating rainbow-colored wristbands.

But what happens when the trend fades, as all inevitably do? Weaving those suckers will at some point go the way of MySpace, and all those discarded bracelets could make their way to landfills.

In fact, a group of British environmental protectionists is already looking at that future moment when the Rainbow Loom hype ends. The problem with these vibrantly colored accessories is that they are comprised mostly of silicon, which means not only that they will never decompose but also that they can't be recycled. The British press is comparing the issue to the controversy in 2011 when the Royal Mail began to use red rubber bands to bundle letters together into small packets. Those bands weren't recyclable either, which is why environmentally conscious Brits took to sending them back to the post office so they could be reused.

In the United States, there is now an online petition demanding that Loom bands be forbidden until they can be sustainably produced and recycled. The bands are also said to endanger any small domestic animals and wild animals that might eat them, although specific cases of injury have yet to be reported.

Photo: Carrie A.

British newspaper Daily Mail, which characterized the bands as an "eco ticking timebomb," quoted the CEO of a recycling company promising to figure out a way to deal better with the bands should the craze for them turn out to be long-lasting.

But wait ...

Looking back may also prove helpful. In the 1990s, many small children wore bright pacifiers made of hard plastic around their necks. The trend not long after that was the use of a kind of adhesive putty in loud colors that left stains on the walls and furniture it touched. These products disappeared shortly after being put on the market, never to be seen or heard of again. So it might be worthwhile to wait for the Rainbow Loom hysteria to die down before spending too much time developing a unique recycling system for them.

Meanwhile, what about existing bracelets? There are plenty of objects in our world that won’t biodegrade. Maybe it’s not the worst thing if our descendants 500 years from now find a few wristbands in cheerful neon colors among all the non-decayed plastic bags and aluminium cans.

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Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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