Hand sanitizer supply is critical for reducing the spread of coronavirus but we are massively short on supply. Hourly hand sanitizer usage would reduce disease spread by 70% reduction (Extrapolating MIT Simulation Study). In 2019, the industry made about 200,000 tons per year of sanitizer. We really need that amount for a day. The lower amounts mean efficient rationing coordinated with quarantines while supply is scaled as rapidly as possible. Social distancing is what can be done now without needing materials and is effective but there are places that cannot be shutdown and social distancing is limited. Sanitizer makes frequent hand cleaning more practical and gets higher compliance. Sanitizer works with social distancing.
Sanitizer is the logistically optimal and most practical solution to cleaning hands. Hourly cleaning presents a logistical problem of lining up at sinks or having gallons of water and soap. The next best alternative to sanitizer could be surgical gloves. But hospital studies show that compliance with personal hand sanitizer is double what it is with cleaning stations and sinks. The slight friction of going to a bathroom or a station and lining up drops compliance and the transmission reduction benefit goes away. Thus distilleries and governments are needed to rapidly act on the supply chain.
UPDATE: Ethanol supply is being diverted for the purpose of scaling hand sanitizers. There is sufficient supplies here. The correction is denatured ethanol will be the source of abundant alcohol. The hourly hand cleaning goal is still good. But the source of key ingredient is not a fundamental constraint.
Scale Analysis of Supply Needed for Hourly Hand Sanitizing Globally
In 2019, Hand Sanitizer was only a $1 billion per year business. World production is about 200,000 tons per year. We need 200,000 tons per day. Stockpiles went to individual hoarding and usage. Each week, we can make 5,000-15,000 tons based upon existing actions. This is enough for 15 million people using it once an hour.
Each ton is about 10000 people per week using hourly hand cleaning. We could stretch this as it is convenient for them to wash hands 3-5 times per day after they go to the bathroom. When rationing, think about which facility needs the least transmission. How many people are in the facility? Divide by 10000. Give a 100ml bottle or two 50 ml bottles per week to each person.
Divert ethanol production and denature it. Scale the production and provide to the most critical areas.
National and world distillery capacity is not sufficient so we will have to target where we can put it and scale up pure alcohol production. Alcohol is the key ingredient for sanitizer. Rapid mobilization will be needed to rapidly scale.
We will ultimately need hand cleaning every hour for 80% of the world population for about 6 billion people to fully open the world economy. Here is an analysis of the scale of global mobilized sanitizer as we move to re-opening
Each person following the hourly cleaning:
20 milliliters per day per person.
600 milliliters per month per person. But with waste and inefficiency, that is 1 liter per person.
Ultimately 6 million tons of sanitizer per month or 72 million tons per year.
Focus initial supplies on the critical areas that cannot be shutdown. Hospitals, police, fire departments, military, prisons other key operations. Use it in the hardest-hit areas first.
Optimal hand cleaning is similar to a physical vaccine in disease spread reduction. Like a liquid condom for the hands. Gloves have similar function but non-contaminating usage is less practical but better than nothing. Hand washing works but washing as frequently as is needed means lines and distributing personal supply is gallons of water and some soap. Each ton of sanitizer is good for 10000 people per week. Even putting all production at critical places means we need 5-10 times more than what we have.
Communicate the need for hourly cleaning to reduce disease spread
Ramp up hand sanitizer production
Ramp up supply chain by 10X and then 100X and then 400X. Critical part of alcohol supply is ethanol production or distilleries.
Have a rationing strategy and managing the front lines of disease spread. Put limited supply to best use.
NOTE on Brian Wang
Brian Wang has been part of a startup for a few weeks that has been working on a more convenient personal dispensing system which would help mitigate disease spread. But the nature of the crisis and the clear identification of the sanitizer supply issue has required a pivot to get international action on the sanitizer and alcohol shortages. It also means getting the pivot to use ethanol production and some distillery capacity for sanitizer. Discussions have started with some people in Italy, Gulf States, and early connections to Latin America. The Singularity University network is getting activated.
Help connect me with mayors and governors to discuss action to ramp up supplies and getting them to the right spots. The right spots being the places that cannot or should not close with quarantines. Hospitals, crisis response areas (police, military), ambulances, prisons, etc…
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.