Scottish distillers pledge 13.5 million litres of ethanol to produce hand sanitiser

An online portal set up by the Scotch Whisky Association to connect distillers with frontline health services and other organisations in need of hand sanitiser or ethanol for medical purposes, has seen more than 130 submissions in just three weeks.

The portal enables distillers to state if they can provide hand sanitiser or ethanol and in what quantities, while other companies can state if they can supply key ingredients for the production of sanitiser, or if they can assist with packaging or distribution. 

Organisations that need sanitiser or ethanol can use the portal to say what they need, and dozens of community care providers, prisons, NHS trusts and funeral homes, have registered their requirements. Demand is high across Scotland and the UK.

Distillers across Scotland have currently pledged over 13.5 million litres of ethanol to support the production of more than 54 million bottles of hand sanitiser. In addition to this, hand sanitiser is being produced locally to meet demand in local communities, coming from care homes, the police, local councils and food manufacturing.

Karen Betts, Chief Executive of the SWA, said: “It has been great to see Scotch Whisky producers pivoting to support frontline services in the fight against Covid-19. 

“Large and small distillers have responded quickly to calls for support from the NHS, care homes, charities, and local service providers, such as Councils. Large amounts of ethanol have been provided at scale, for both hand sanitiser and sterilisation purposes.

"Many community organisations have also been supported locally with hand sanitiser being supplied direct to them by Scotch Whisky producers.

“The SWA portal has proved an invaluable tool in connecting those who need sanitiser and ethanol with those who can provide it, and we now have over 130 organisations up and down the UK registered on the portal as well as some overseas companies offering help.”

Business Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “Whisky producers are just some of the many businesses that have come up with new and innovative ways to battle the coronavirus.

“I would like to thank the Scotch Whisky Association and its members for this generous initiative, which will help protect the health of millions of people in communities across Scotland.”

The SWA has created manufacturing guidance on hand sanitiser and ethanol for producers looking to support demand, containing details on effective alcohol levels for use in combatting the virus. The SWA has also worked with HMRC to allow distillers to manufacture sanitiser without needing to pay duty on the alcohol in it, if it is made to WHO specifications. 

Liam Hughes, chief executive and co-founder of Glasgow Distillery Company, said: “Since registering with the SWA Portal we’ve been contacted by organisations requesting hand sanitiser across the Central Belt and further afield. Having initially scaled up production to accommodate demand, we are now working on another batch, and the Portal has helped us to ensure that hand sanitiser is reaching those who need it.

"From homeless charities and foodbanks, through to the Royal Mail and frontline care providers, demand has been very high, and we have seen a real mix of requests coming through.”

Gordon Buist, production director for Chivas Brothers, said: “We were pleased at the strong interest generated by the Portal; there has been no shortage of takers for our hand sanitiser or ethanol, which shows the importance of this industry initiative. Thanks to the Portal we have been able to connect with a number of charities and organisations, and supply sanitiser to support the vital work they are doing for the community.”

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