Four Loko’s Silver Lining: From ‘Blackout in a Can’ to Ethanol

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The manufacturers of Four Loko and other alcohol-laced energy drinks claimed their beverages would help you power through the night. In the wake of FDA warnings about their safety, discarded cans of the drinks are now powering cars instead.

Beginning in November, after federal authorities decreed that Four Loko and similar drinks be yanked from supermarket shelves pending a formula change, wholesalers began sending cases of the caffeinated malt beverages to MXI Environmental Services in Virginia. It’s one of three facilities in the United States that recycles ethanol.

(Read TIME’s list of the Top 10 most ridiculously strong drinks.)

“We’re equipped to process four truckloads a day, and we’re at full capacity,” Brian Potter, MXI’s vice-president, told the Associated Press. “There are about 30 different products involved, and we’ve only seen a couple of them at this point. It could go on for several months.” Each truck carries 2,000 cases of the 23.5-ounce cans, and come from wholesalers in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and other east coast states.

After distilling the alcohol from the drinks, MXI then sells the fuel to be blended into gasoline. It also sells the aluminum cans to a recycling plant, and recycles the drink’s water, cardboard packaging and shipping pallets.

(Read, “The Unlikely Four Loko Alternative: 40-Proof Chocolate Milk.”)

“These are actually things that could go directly into a landfill or incinerator or some other waste process that’s not as environmentally friendly, so I think it’s a good thing,” Potter said. (via AP)

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