Recycling 'blackouts in a can' should inspire other uses for recalled food
Truckloads of Four Loko and other alcohol-laced energy drinks are being recycled into ethanol and other products after federal authorities told manufacturers the beverages were dangerous and caused users to become “wide-awake drunk.” – Associated Press, Jan. 6, 2011
Here in America, we don’t believe in wasting food. We manage to use almost a whopping 60 percent of what we produce. (W00t!) How do we do it? Well, among other things, our thrifty government buys up excess production of cheap cheese or meat to use in the National School Lunch Program. Food manufacturers and supermarkets send their leftover, messed-up, or dented cans and boxes to food banks — helping the poor and getting a tax break at the same time.
And not only do we find a home for these unwanted “edible food-like substances,” but we rescue even potentially hazardous items. For example, those potentially salmonella-tainted eggs that Jack DeCoster’s Iowa hens were continuing to lay after last year’s massive recall? They got pasteurized and turned into things like Egg McMuffins.
But converting Four Loko into fuel represents new heights of creative reuse. MXI Environmental Services in Virginia is buying back cases of the recalled “drink,” distilling the alcohol and selling the fuel to be blended into gasoline and diverting the aluminum cans to a recycler. MXI is also recycling the nasty-tasting “blackout in a can” drinks’ water, cardboard packaging, and shipping pallets.
MXI is clearly onto something. The next time Froot Loops and Apple Jacks get recalled for something as minor as a weird, chemical smell, look for some entrepreneur to turn the cereal into, say, colorful, eco-friendly cat litter.