Four Loko has gone from energizing parties to powering 18 wheelers.
MXI Environmental Services, a Virginia-based company, has started purchasing the beverage with the intent to convert it into automobile fuel following the Dec. 13 ban, according to the Associated Press.
The trendy drink was officially removed from shelves around the country by the Federal Drug Administration for its hazardous mixture of caffeine and alcohol, which can cause heart irregularities and dehydration, and which the FDA linked to alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults, according to the AP. The beverage had become popular among high school and college students for its simultaneously invigorating and intoxicating effects, leaving liquor stores with large stocks of unsold product after the ban.
MXI has offered to buy cases of the beverage from all over the East Coast and plans to reuse the materials ranging from aluminum cans to alcohol in an effort to environmentally recycle the entire product, according to the AP. The aluminum cans will be sold to a recycler and cardboard casing and shipping pallets and water contained in the drink will be conventionally recycled. The alcohol will be converted into ethanol, a fuel that is typically derived from corn or other crops and is more environmentally friendly than most gasoline.
According to an MXI executive quoted by the AP, the company is receiving such a large quantity of Four Loko shipments that ethanol production from the beverages could continue for months. Gas stations across the nation could soon be receiving the gasoline additive.
Only two other facilities in the U.S. also recycle ethanol, and the AP reports that MXI’s competitors have also been taking shipments of Four Loko.
Ethanol can be blended with petroleum fuels and, along with other alcohol-based fuels such as methanol, it has the potential to significantly reduce the U.S. domestic consumption of petroleum, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Kristin Ng (MSB ’11), president of Georgetown EcoAction, expressed enthusiasm at this new form of recycling.
“There are lots of recalled items that can be safely reused in other ways … instead of just going to waste,” Ng said.
MXI has been converting a variety of products, including unsold beer, wine, liquor, cosmetics and fragrances into fuel-grade ethanol since 2002, according to the company’s website.
Although these developments have certainly appealed to the environmentally conscious community, some former Four Loko drinkers are troubled by the beverage’s easy transition to automobile fuel.
“It’s concerning to think that I’ve practically been drinking gasoline,” Samuel Streitweiser (COL ’14) said.
Phusion Projects will attempt to counter the company’s negative image with a non-caffeinated drink — Four Loko XXX — being released this month, according to a Jan. 4 press release.