You can get candy, soda and all sorts of snacks from vending machines, but why not personal protective equipment?
One man from Toronto is hoping to change all of that.
Gilad Levy, 47, general manager at payments company Nayax Canada, has set up vending machines stocked with face masks, hand sanitizer and even disposable gloves at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and a number of malls across Canada.
The idea for the vending machines came about as Covid-19 began spreading across Canada and there was a need for PPE. Levy has a background as a first responder, having been a volunteer with an EMS in New York for several years, and wanted to find a way to help.
“When the pandemic started, I was thinking about ways that I could help, and then I realized that I could combine my expertise with cashless payment solutions and my knowledge of PPEs to help setup vending machines so that people could keep safe as they resume their daily activities and in order to help stop the spread of this deadly virus,” Levy told CNN.
While he was able to find the vending machines through a contact, Levy said supplying them with PPE proved difficult early on in the pandemic, as there was a worldwide shortage.
“It was important for me to find high quality products while making sure that I was not infringing on the supply that was available to those in essential services,” Levy said. “Currently, all of the PPEs in the vending machines are either made in Canada or approved by Canadian regulators.”
As PPE has become more readily available, keeping the vending machines in stock has become easier for Levy. The vending machines are stocked with a number of different items: two different sizes of hand sanitizer, 3-ply and KN95 masks, several different types of reusable masks, disposable gloves and PPE kits.
Levy also said that they are going to soon introduce a few gadgets for both children and adults that will make the usage of PPE easier and more friendly.
While grabbing a mask before you head out the door has become a habit for many people, it’s easy to forget it at home if you’re in a rush. Masks can also get dirty and need to be replaced, and if you’re traveling, you may feel the need to stock up on backups.
Levy believes having PPE readily available for people to keep themselves safe if they forget their PPE at home gives them “peace of mind as they resume their ‘normal’ way of life.”
Levy partnered with Oxford Properties, which manages properties and malls in Canada. Oxford Properties spokesman Daniel O’Donnell told CNN that they have partnered with Levy on nine vending machines, with two at Yorkdale, five at Square One, one at Scarborough Town Centre and one at Canada Square. He said that they are “exploring the opportunity to add further vending machines to other malls and office towers.”
Levy said the response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
O’Donnell agreed, adding, “We’ve received great customer feedback about the machines as it’s helped many out in a pinch when they have forgotten a mask or want to swap for a fresh one.”
For anyone concerned about using the vending machines, O’Donnell said that all the machines are regularly cleaned with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-approved products and hand sanitizing stations are installed nearby so customers are able to sanitize their hands before and after using the machines.
“The fact that I am able to help people, even in the smallest way, stay safe, stop the spread of COVID while allowing people to start safely resuming their daily activities and increasing safe social interactions, and helping businesses resume economic activity – all make these vending machines a success for me,” Levy said.