Carbon negative vodka producer redirects entire capacity to hand sanitizers

18 March, 2020

An award-winning start-up that produces net carbon negative vodka in New York City has redirected its entire production capacity towards making hand sanitizer.

Last year Air Co. launched a vodka that is made by extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into pure ethanol using solar power. This is then combined with water to produce vodka.

NASA and XPrize have both bestowed awards upon Air Co. for its innovative creation. Now the firm is abandoning vodka production and turning to hand sanitizer in this time of need.

“We’re going to be directly supplying all donations at the advice of the city,” co-founder and chief executive Gregory Constantine told Tech Crunch. “We are also looking to work with local restaurants to have them provide food delivery drivers with our sanitizer given that bars and restaurants have had to shut their doors to patrons, leaving delivery services at the forefront of food services here in New York City.”

There is a global shortage of hand sanitzer – along with toilet paper, pasta and other goods – as shoppers panic buy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Profiteers like Matt Colvin of Tennessee travelled across America buying up as much as they could before everyone began to panic buy.

He hoped to sell it on for a huge profit, but online retailers like Amazon eventually shut him down. He now has 17,700 bottles sat in his garage. Vanity Fair described him as a “putz” and “a real jerk”.

Now distilleries are trying to pick up the slack. Pernod Ricard’s Absolut vodka isdistribute high alcohol neutral spirit in Sweden for use in hand sanitizers. “We can deliver the neutral alcohol by itself if the receiving authorities can help with the rest,” said communications manager Paula Eriksson.

Moonrise Distillery in Clayton, Georgia, said Saturday is making hand sanitizer using botanical gin infused with aloe vera “as long as it is required and we can get the ingredients”.

“We are a community of huggers and hand shakers and we want to do our part to keep that warmth around but in as safe a manner as possible,” said the distillery in a Facebook post. “While washing hands with soap and water remains the best solution we hope the sanitizer will help when that is not possible.”

Brad Plummer, spokesman for the American Distilling Institute, said many members are converting some of their operations towards hand sanitizer production. “The hospitality industry is going to be decimated by this and they are our primary clients,” he said. “We’re looking for ways to help in the response to this, but also to find other ways to look for revenue streams.”

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