ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Two Michigan distilleries and Amway have something in common during this coronavirus outbreak: they’ve retooled their production to pump out much-needed hand sanitizer for those who need it.
Amway says a team of more than 40 employees launched Project Light Speed Monday. They used 9,000 gallons of ethanol and other raw materials available at Amway’s Ada campus to create a hand sanitizer that will be donated to Spectrum Health hospital employees handling the mounting cases of COVID-19.
“We were trying to figure out how to pay them and they responded, ‘Oh, we’re just going give it to you,’ and I almost fell out of my chair,” Kurt Knoth, vice president of Spectrum’s Supply Chain and Security Services, told News 8 Thursday. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh; that’s just amazing.'”
Amway says the formula it’s using is based on hand sanitizer it first developed for China during the SARS epidemic. It contains 66% ethanol — above the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of 60%. The first 10,000-unit batch of hand sanitizer will ship to Spectrum Health Friday. Another 1,000 units will go to Holland Hospital.
“We were just excited to help our community,” said David Madiol, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Amway. “We dusted off the ingredients for that and the team went to work and created this packaging and labeling and the product itself.”
Amway says it has ordered another 8,000 gallons of ethanol to produce two more batches of hand sanitizer, which should roll off the line in coming weeks. Those batches will be distributed to employees, Amway business owners as well as Kids’ Food Basket, which is bustling to assemble meals for children and families in need.
“It’s incredible,” Knoth said. “We should buy all of our hand sanitizer from Amway going forward.”
Whitmer announced Thursday that state laws prohibiting beverage distilleries from making denatured alcohol have been relaxed during the coronavirus response, paving the way for distilleries to produce ethanol-based hand sanitizers to help meet demand. Normally businesses need an industrial manufacturing permit to do so, which no distiller in Michigan currently has.
“I am profoundly grateful for the Michigan distilleries who are putting people before profit and are using their production facilities to make hand sanitizer during this COVID-19 emergency, she stated in a news release.
The permit waiver will remain in effect until June 30, but could be extended if necessary.
Coppercraft Distillery announced Wednesday that in addition to regular production, it’s producing and donating about 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to ease shortages. The Holland distiller says it’s following a formula provided by the World Health Organization that primarily uses glycerol and a grain spirit to create a hand sanitizer that’s just under 80% alcohol.
Great Lakes Wine & Spirits is donating its trucks and drivers to deliver the product, which will be distributed to health care providers and hospitals including Holland Hospital early next week, according to Coppercraft.
Similarly, Mammoth Distilling in Traverse City has tapped some of its spirits to make hand sanitizer.
Owner Chad Munger says they decided to shift to producing the high-demand product when demand for spirits slumped.
Customers who bring in a small container can fill it up for free.
‘We’re getting a lot of inbound requests from nursing homes and I just got an email from the Autism Centers of Michigan, saying they are in desperate need of product, they can’t find it anywhere else. So we’re going to ramp up production a little bit to handle those requests as well as handle customers that want to come in and fill up here,” he told WPBN.
—News 8’s Donovan Long contributed to this report.