Coronavirus: Where the Hell Has All Sanitizer Gone?
A familiar sign-at Wellington, New Zealand
Coronavirus: Where the hell has all sanitizer gone?
If everybody in the world had a small sanitizer bottle, we would need 385 million litres of the material.
Before coronavirus, according to market analysts Ariston Advisory and Intelligence, the world produced less than a thousandth of that per annum, around 300,000 litres.
That could explain why there's a problem getting hold of it now, as the pandemic sweeps through the planet.
If you're trying to get an alcohol-based sanitizer on Amazon-the kind recommended by the World Health Organization-you'll find all the normal brands are sold out.
Just a few days ago, here in the UK, just one seller seemed to have any in stock.
A £ 30 ($35) 500ml bottle was priced-at least ten times what it would have cost in February.
It has since been reduced to £ 20, but this is still about seven times the price of pre-pandemics.
It's quick to suspect price-gouging sellers like these and several comments under the listing did just that.
But the company that sells it, Hertz Devices, says this isn't that easy.
Typically, the company markets and leases equipment to the building industry and it only started selling sanitizers when customers asked for them But it has failed to obtain supplies and
the cost is rising daily And this is because the price of the main ingredient-alcohol-has significantly increased.
The sale of the sanitizer Hertz Devices is done by a company of skincare products based in the UK called Zidac Laboratories.
Lately, its coo, Jerica Weiss Barth, has been making several calls.
It hasn't been able to get ethanol, the alcohol it puts in its sanitizer, and which has to make up at least 60% for it to kill viruses (and
Weissbarth used to pay about £ 700 ($800) for one ton of ethanol-enough for 32,000 hand gel bottles.
A new supplier last week offered him a ton for £ 10,000-more than 10 times the normal amount.
But this week, after buying a batch on Tuesday for just three to four times more than normal, he was in a celebratory mood.
The BBC has called in many commercial alcohol distributors.
One woman who answered the phone was close to tears; due to lack of stock, the business for which she had worked was closing down.
Others were so busy they were overwhelmed by workers and could not talk.
One web site said orders requests had gone from 300 a day to over 6,000.
If sanitisers aren't made of ethanol, they're made of alcohol isopropyl, also called IPA.
There are a limited number of firms manufacturing these types of alcohol on an industrial scale.
The main producers are from China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the US.
And that explains why drinking firms including Pernod Ricard, which makes Absolut Vodka, and Diageo, which makes Johnnie Walker whisky — and other smaller firms from London to New York,
to Manila, Philippines — are now producing or preparing to produce alcohol for sanitizing.
The Indian government has expressly asked the alcoholic drinks industry and the sugarcane industry to provide ethanol to hand sanitiser companies.
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