4Loko Recycled Into Ethanol, Seriously

It’s a good place for the banned caffeinated malt liquor to die. 4Loko is being recycled into ethanol by recycling company MXI Environmental Services and others, reports the Associated Press. It’s not as crazy as it sounds; MXI Environmental has developed a business out of recycling a whole long list of rejected alcohol-based goods, including beer, wine, and cosmetic products, as well as other liquid and solid wastes.

Now that 4Loko isn’t contributing to the waking drunk syndrome across college campuses in the nation, the drink can get dumped into the beleaguered U.S. ethanol industry. Even Al Gore recently admitted the massive subsidies that the U.S. government has given to the corn ethanol crew were a mistake. Next-gen biofuel makers, on the other hand, contend that corn ethanol is a stepping stone to future, more sustainable biofuels.

But those next-gen biofuels constantly seem years — if not decades — away. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency had to once again scale back its biofuel mandates, partly because the EPA found in its final rule-making that cellulosic ethanol companies in the U.S. would not be able to produce the projected amount. Originally, the mandate called for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol to be produced in 2010, but companies have produced basically none.

For 2011, the EPA projects that five companies — Range Fuels, DuPont Danisco, Fiberight, KL Energy, and KiOR — will only be able to produce 6 million cellulosic ethanol-equivalent gallons. However, in 2012, the EPA projects that many more companies, including 20 plants, could produce potentially 300 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2012. Is the EPA being misled, yet again, by too-eager, too-ambitious companies?

The next-generation of biofuels won’t come from 4Loko. But when it comes to recycled trash and plant waste, that could be a huge opportunity. Last year, massive trash company Waste Management invested in cellulosic ethanol startup Enerkem, which gasifies various forms of waste — everything from old telephone poles to mixed municipal garbage — then turns it into syngas and then various fuels.

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Image courtesy of Yapsnaps.