With more than 13,000 deaths in Spain related to COVID-19, the Spanish government is looking outside the box for life-saving technology and support. Last week, Valencia-based finishing technology company Jeanologia became one of those helping hands.
In an interview with Rivet, Jeanologia president Enrique Silla said the company has successfully converted its G2 ozone technology, typically used to sustainably wash down jeans, into a “sanitization box” for plastic face shields worn by emergency workers on the front lines of Spain’s coronavirus crisis.
Jeanologia is sanitizing full-face plastic shields created by the government in partnership with Valencia Polytechnic University. The masks are made using 3D printing machines or through traditional plastic injection molds. Jeanologia receives the masks from the makers, carries out the sanitization process and then ships them to areas in need. Ozone, Silla said, is the Spanish Ministry of Health’s preferred way to sanitize plastic protective masks. The process has the most powerful oxidation, is antimicrobial and does not produce any residuals of chemicals or solvents.
“Once we learned about the disinfection protocol developed by the Spanish government, we made a real hackathon with our team of engineers,” Silla said.
It took Jeanologia’s R&D team just four days to convert the technology—a process that would have required six months of R&D under normal circumstances. “I keep asking myself how is this possible and it’s because they [poured] themselves into this project,” Silla said about his team. “This shows how humans are capable to do something unique if we really have a focus.”
The Valencia facility now has the capacity to sanitize 15,000 masks per day. This week, Silla said, Jeanologia will deliver 100,000 sanitized masks and it will continue to maintain this production for as long as healthcare and emergency workers need. The company, he added, is currently preparing a second sanitization center in Barcelona and is also developing small sanitization boxes that can be distributed to emergency hubs around the country.
Though most of Jeanologia’s efforts have helped domestically, Silla said the converted technology has the potential to help on a global scale. With 1,000 G2 machines on seven continents, this week Jeanologia plans to reach out to clients in the U.S., Mexico, Italy, Bangladesh, Pakistan and more to recreate this sanitization technology in other parts of the world. The company, Silla reported, is preparing new sanitization bulbs that have been specifically designed for the easy, modular system.
“We are living in what we call ‘radical uncertainty.’ The situation changes every day, so we are just trying to move fast and react to the situation,” he said.
In total, Jeanologia’s investment in converting equipment for coronavirus relief nears 500,000 euros (approximately $540,000). It’s a hefty financial outlay during a time when the global denim sector has essentially come to a screeching halt, but Silla remains positive that the pandemic will help kickstart a “transformational journal” for the industry.
The crisis, Silla said, will weed out the companies that put profit before people, values and planet. “The future is for good companies,” he said. “This pandemic will be a ‘before and after’ for our values and the way we approach business. Humanity will learn this lesson.”
With regular business on pause, Silla said Jeanologia remains 100 percent committed to the sanitization of protective gear. “The main thing now is not to bring any new products to market,” he said. “The main thing now is to help the community.”
When the pandemic begins to subside, Silla said Jeanologia will turn its attention to how it can help restart the industry. After stores reopen, Silla warns that consumers may still feel unsafe shopping and trying on clothes that others may have already worn in fitting room. The door, he said, is open for textile and apparel sanitization.
“It is going to be important to give consumers confidence that the clothes they buy are safe,” Silla said.