Photo: Austin UhlerFour Loko: It’s gross, bad for you, and only existed legitimately for about five minutes before turning into its own punchline. It’s pretty much the Ke$ha of beverages. But it looks like the caffeinated alcoholic energy drink, whose main 2010 achievements were inspiring mediocre hip-hop and pissing off the FDA, may be getting a clean slate in the new year.
A Virginia facility is now turning the drinks into fuel, by distilling their alcohol and recycling it into ethanol. MXI Environmental Services, one of three plants in the U.S. that can turn products with extractable alcohol into auto fuel, has contracted to buy Four Loko producer Phusion Projects’ backlog of the stuff, which is now often unsellable as well as undrinkable. They’re also accepting shipments of alcoholic energy drinks from wholesalers across the East Coast — the Associated Press reports that MXI is expecting “a couple hundred truckloads,” each of which holds 2,000 cases. That’s a lot of caffeinated booze mercifully removed from the hands of college students. The fact that it’s now going to help fuel their cars is just gravy.
Turning alcohol into ethanol is nothing new. (Doing it backwards is new, and sort of gross.) Four Loko is getting attention because it has a high profile and a funny name — see above re: Ke$ha — but MXI has been turning unsold beer, wine, liquor, cosmetics, and fragrances into fuel-grade ethanol since 2002. It’s one of only three facilities in the U.S. that does so, though (the others are also accepting alcoholic energy drinks).