Unfit for human consumption, banned cans of high-octane Four Loko are being recycled into ethanol — and used in gasoline, Scott Hensely reported Jan. 7 in NPR’s Health Blog.
You know the story: after numerous reports of hospitalizations and other related harms, national regulators sent warning letters to four companies that produced caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CABs) warning them caffeine was an unsafe and unapproved additive. (While some states are struggling to actually get the drink off the shelves, some of the companies’ reformulated products, including Four Loko, have reappeared on store shelves with just as much alcohol and sugary sweet, but without the caffeine.)
The National Beer Wholesalers Association advised distributors to work with their state regulators to quickly dispose of the banned versions of these drinks in accordance with individual state laws and FDA guidelines — but they were not told how to go about it, according to msnbc.com.
Meanwhile, wholesalers from states such as Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, are sending the illegal products to waste management companies to distill the high-alcohol drink into ethanol for use as gasoline.
“We’re equipped to process four truckloads a day, and we’re at full capacity,” said Brian Potter of MXI Environmental Services in Virginia — one of three companies equipped to handle such recycling. “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.”
The company said they also recycle the water, cans, cardboard packaging and shipping pallets.
“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.
Reduce, recycle, reuse. Remove the dangerous beverages; recycle the contents; fuel up the car. I’m not sure that we can call this being green, but at least there is a redeeming quality for these otherwise-harmful drinks.