Four Loko may be on the FDA’s blacklist because it leaves drinkers in a wide-awake, yet drunken stupor, but the drink apparently does have other uses. The Associated Press reports that Four Loko and similar alcohol-infused energy drinks are being recycled into ethanol fuel. Cases of the caffeinated malt beverage have been being sent by wholesalers to a processing center at MXI Environmental Services in Virginia since the FDA banned Four Loko and similar beverages in November.
Four Loko by the truckload
MXI Vice President of Operations Brian Potter told the AP that the facility expects approximately 200 more truckloads of Four Loko for ethanol fuel processing soon. One truck holds 2,000 cases of the malt beverage. According to the American Coalition for Ethanol, MXI is one of only three such locations in the U.S. that can recycle ethanol – and MXI’s competition is in active pursuit.
FDA ruling on Four Loko mirrored Anheuser-Busch decisions
Two years ago, the FDA and state attorneys general pressured Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors into pulling the drinks Bud Extra, Tilt and Sparks from the market due to numerous public drunkenness reports and other incidents. The recent Four Loko decision by the FDA was based upon similar reports, chief among them a mass blackout incident involving alcohol poisoning among college students in Washington state. Reports of car accidents and assaults related to Four Loko have also been reported.
Like other caffeinated alcoholic energy drinks, the concern with Four Loko has been that the caffeine masks drinkers’ ability to perceive their actual level of intoxication. Thus, drinkers could shift from caffeine buzz to loss of consciousness relatively quickly
MXI distills and recycles
In addition to accepting Four Loko from wholesalers, MXI Environmental Services is also under contract with Phusion Projects – the makers of Four Loko – to take the remainder of the discontinued beverages.
According to Potter, MXI and other ethanol fuel processing facilities distill the alcohol from the beverages, then sell it to be blended into gasoline. Water, aluminum cans, cardboard packing and shipping pallets are also recycled.