Fact Sheet

Running your car on... Four Loko?

Truckloads of the alcohol-filled energy drink are being turned into ethanol and used to power hybrid cars. How on earth does that work?

Four Loko, the caffeine-and-alcohol infused malt beverage that was banned following a series of accidents and deaths in 2010, has all but disappeared from store shelves, except in a caffeine-free version. But the original Loko will live on in a surprising new incarnation: fuel to power automobiles. On Thursday, the AP reported that MXI Environmental Services in Virginia has been recycling thousands of truckloads of Four Loko into ethanol, which can later be mixed with gasoline. Will the cult alcoholic brew soon be powering your car? (Watch a local report about the plan.) Here's an instant guide to the process:

How does this work?
After Four Loko was banned in November, wholesale distributors from Virginia, North Carolina, and other states bought unused stock from retailers. They then began to ship the banned beverage to MXI Environmental Services, an environmental recycling facility in Abingdon, Va. MXI and two other recycling companies distill the alcohol out of Four Loko, then sell it as "fuel to be blended into gasoline."

What else does MXI recycle?
MXI doesn't stop at distilling. Indeed, says Curtis Cartier at Seattle Weekly, "the company apparently treats the Four Loko cans like Native Americans treat a slain buffal —not wasting anything of value." Beyond the ethanol distillation, MXI "sells the aluminum cans to a recycling plant, and recycles the drink's water, cardboard packaging and shipping pallets." A spokesman for the company says that after recycling a Four Loko can, it would only be "30 days until it's back on the shelf as a beer can."

What do environmentalists think of this?
They're elated. America is pretty good at finding new ways to use old products, says Bonnie Azab at Grist, but "converting Four Loko into fuel represents new heights of creative reuse." (Although Brian Merchant at Treehugger says that "MXI, along with two other plants in the U.S., have been transforming bad booze into fuel for years," which means that former caffeine-and-alcohol king Sparks "may be powering your Volvo.")

Sources: Associated PressSeattle Weekly, Grist, Treehugger

Recommended

Biden to end COVID-19 national emergencies on May 11
President Joe Biden
The end is nigh

Biden to end COVID-19 national emergencies on May 11

6th Memphis police officer placed on leave in connection with Tyre Nichols' death
A memorial in Boston for Tyre Nichols.
Another One Out

6th Memphis police officer placed on leave in connection with Tyre Nichols' death

Federal working group proposes new 'Middle Eastern or North African' category for next census
A hand holding, Census 2020, letter and forms, in front of computer displaying website
invisible community

Federal working group proposes new 'Middle Eastern or North African' category for next census

Students return to Virginia elementary school 3 weeks after child shoots teacher
Police respond following a shooting at Richneck Elementary School in Virginia.
Back to Class

Students return to Virginia elementary school 3 weeks after child shoots teacher

Most Popular

Boeing to deliver its final 747 plane, bringing an end to the world's most iconic jet
The final Boeing 747 during its rollout.
Farewell, 747

Boeing to deliver its final 747 plane, bringing an end to the world's most iconic jet

5 toons about egg prices
Editorial Cartoon
Feature

5 toons about egg prices

The Hogwarts Legacy boycott controversy, explained
Hogwarts Legacy logo photo
Briefing

The Hogwarts Legacy boycott controversy, explained