Plastic straws in alcometers may harm environment

City COVID-19 Environment Safety

They need to be thrown in biomedical waste

Bengaluru Traffic Police (BTP) are using environment-unfriendly plastic straws in alcometers.

Environmentalist Akshay Heblikar, Director of the NGO Eco-Watch, informed The Observer that proper disposal of plastic is a key aspect of keeping the environment healthy. 

“It is their duty to carry out those tests… what they should make sure is proper disposal of those straws,” he said. 

“This isn’t just an environmental issue but many things could go wrong if the straws or plastic in general aren’t disposed of correctly. Any animal could eat it and choke, it could block drainage systems, or any rag pickers or those who pick plastic could come in contact with the contaminated straws and might get infected,” he added.

Incineration and throwing the straws into biomedical waste are some of the ways to dispose of plastic straws. “They should make sure that they incinerate the plastic, not just burn it. Or you can keep it under biomedical waste and dispose it of appropriately. Since these are used by individuals, you cannot recycle them.”  

The traffic police resumed testing for drunken driving a few weeks ago, after a gap of nearly 19 months. After a lockdown was announced in March 2020, BTP stopped the tests in view of the pandemic.

Just a week before full-fledged testing started, the police did surprise tests on drivers by sniffing them and taking them to the nearby government hospital for blood tests. After that, from September 25, tests were carried out using alcometers. 

Because of the fear of Covid-19, police personnel wear face masks and maintain social distancing from drivers. An alcometer, once used, is sanitized and kept in a bag for two days before being used again. All safety procedures are followed, the police say.

Harshal Salvi, a Bengaluru resident, is reluctant to take the drink-and-drive test which involves a straw attached to an alcometer. “I am against using anything that is related to plastic. I’d rather do a blood test,” he shared. 

S.P. Shashikala, Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic and Planning, said that around 600 alcometers are used. “We stop drivers who we suspect are drunk and then ask them to blow into the alcometer. If the alcohol content in the blood is more than 40mg per 100mg, we book them for drinking and driving. They then have to go to the court and pay the fine.”

Asked about safety, she added: “The alcometers, once used, are sanitized and kept for two days; the straws are disposable and hence thrown in garbage.”

People sometimes refuse to use the alcometer. “In that case, we take them to the nearest government hospital for a blood test. One drawback of that is the results often take a long time to come.”

“We resumed drink-and-drive tests in September because of rising cases. Some people refuse to get blood tests done, so we started using alcometers. Keeping Covid in mind, our cops wear masks, maintain distancing and use single-use disposable straws. 

Ganesh Reddy, a Bengaluru resident, said he hesitates to undergo the test involving an alcometer. “In my seven years of living in Bengaluru, I’ve only been checked once. Now, in this situation, I won’t be comfortable taking the test involving an alcometers.”

However, Manik Gundappa, a cab driver, is OK with undergoing the test. “Sometimes eyes get red due to lack of sleep and the police think we are drunk. I’d personally take the test.”

According to Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act, “whoever drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle, be it a two wheeler, four wheeler or a commercial vehicle, has 30 mg per 100 mg alcohol content  in his blood is punished with six months of  imprisonment or fine or both.” 


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