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The global machine keeping hand sanitizer available during Covid-19

Carlo Cadenas for Quartz
  • Mary Hui
By Mary Hui



All around the world, hand sanitizer sales have shot up as the Covid-19 pandemic pushes people’s hygiene precautions into overdrive. Global demand for the product has skyrocketed. Stores rushed to ration supplies by limiting how many bottles a customer could buy; vendors hiked prices; a pair of US-based brothers hoarded 17,000 bottles of the stuff; and thieves ripped sanitizer dispensers off hospital walls.

A bar sign in Hong Kong tried to bring some humor to the frenzy: “Never in my whole life would I imagine my hand would consume more alcohol than my mouth!”

Hand sanitizers exemplify how even a simple bottle of clear, gooey liquid taps into a supply chain that spans the globe. The sanitizer is certainly no iPhone, with its complicated electrical components and as many as 75 different types of minerals sourced from all over the world before being assembled in China. But the production of the viscous disinfectant is still dependent on materials that come from lots of different places.

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