Who would’ve thought 2020 would be the year that toilet paper and hand sanitizer became precious commodities? The COVID-19 pandemic has seen panic-buying around the world, resulting in shortages on many essential household items. For many of our Associates on the frontline, it was proving harder and harder to source the hand sanitiser needed for them to safely perform their essential work duties at our Mars Petcare Australia manufacturing sites in Wodonga and Bathurst.
Our clever Quality & Food Safety (Q&FS) and Health Safety & Environment (HS&E) teams in Wodonga and Bathurst rose to the challenge and broke out the chemistry sets to make World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended formula hand sanitiser. In less than a month, the production lines that have been manufacturing Australian pets’ favourite food for over 20 years were able to produce hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer for the essential workers across our business who are helping to keep pet food on supermarket shelves.
Meet the Mars Petcare Australia Associates who raised their hands to help
Our creative Wodonga Associates partnered with local whiskey manufacturer, Corowa Distilling Co, to get their hands on extra sanitiser to keep the factory going whilst they sourced material to create their own. Kim Smith (Health Safety & Environment Technician) said “Corowa Distillery made the hand sanitiser to WHO standards and were more than happy to provide us with ongoing stock. Chris and Martina from Corowa Distillery even personally delivered stock to our site for our convenience.”
Over at our Bathurst site, Kristy Waddell (Bathurst Lab Technician) sourced larger quantities of ingredients such as isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. Sean O’Donnell (Hygiene & Food Safety Manager) said “the next challenge was finding a bottle to dispense the sanitiser. We got in touch with our Mars Food colleagues in Wyong and they sent us hundreds of sauce bottles.” Sean and his team got creative, filling the sauce bottles with hand sanitiser before distributing it to on-site Associates. Sean says, “We’re already thinking about a refill system where the sauce bottles can be returned for a top-up.”
We spoke to Peta Nelson (Quality & Food Safety Manager, Wodonga) to find out more about this team effort to lend a helping hand.
Who came up with the idea and how did it come about?
We called so many of our suppliers to try and get hand sanitiser, but everywhere was in such short supply. Brett Brown (Wodonga Site Plant Director) asked us to make our own hand sanitiser. Wendy De Koeyer (Quality & Food Safety Technician) spent so much time on the phone trying to source Ethanol – it’s harder than you think!
Was the hand sanitiser difficult to make?
Not really. We followed the instructions provided by the WHO, added a little bit of essential oil and we were good to go!
How many litres of hand sanitiser has been made?
20 litres of hand sanitiser has been made and we plan to make more in the coming days. We were struggling to source raw materials to make our own, which is when Kim Smith managed to get us over 100 litres from Corowa Distillery. It’s gone a long way in keeping the site going.
What has the reaction been from Associates?
They’re all thankful, it’s been so hard to buy some in the shops!
How do you plan to distribute the hand sanitiser to Associates?
We purchased small bottles which we hand filled and labelled for each Associate. We left these on-site ready to be picked up - most Associates have theirs now.
At Mars, we know the work we do today creates a better tomorrow, and panic buying won’t stop us! In the spirit of our Five Principles, our Wodonga and Bathurst Associates took on the challenge to support the health and wellbeing of their colleagues. Peta said “It was most definitely a team effort. Next up in the sanitiser flavours is wild orange & lime!”