The EU Ecolabel criteria for lubricant products is currently under review. An industry taskforce has proposed several key changes to the labelling scheme to make regulations more stringent. Most notable, moves to increase renewability and percent requirements around biodegradability - including a new 10-day window. The current criteria are a 28-day window and 60% biodegradability.
While the certification is a voluntary one for companies, an increasing sensitivity towards the environment and consumer demand for more sustainable products, has seen 36,395 products awarded the EU Ecolabel as of March 2016. Companies are increasingly seeking independent endorsement of their products.
Certainly, the EU Ecolabel has been critical to the growth and development of Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EAL). However, the taskforce’s proposed changes have many key industry players concerned. Some experts estimate the change could eliminate 50% of lubricant products currently approved under Ecolabel, severely impacting the availability of EALs.
Speaking at F+L Week 2017 on “Global trends in bio based lubricants,” Dr. Bernard Roell Jr., an organic chemist with more than 25 years’ R&D experience in industrial lubricant applications, told attendees that changes to the scheme must be balanced with “performance, price and adaption of technology.” He suggested “a lot of the changes may actually set back growth of Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants.”
Dr Roell considers the OECD 301B 10-day window more appropriate for highly readily biodegradable products. He says, a lot of currently approved saturated esters would not be accepted under the proposed legislation. In particular, Dr. Roell cited marine environment as a concern - where balancing water sensitivity and oxidative stability with biodegradability is critical.