European consumers have long been able to rely on the Eco-label Flower logo to help them find greener products, and now hydraulic oils and greases will be included if they meet stringent environmental requirements.
"There is growing concern about the environmental impacts of lubricants, so the advantages of having EU-wide criteria to encourage the market for more environmentally benign lubricants are clear," said EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.
"With the Flower, everybody can win - the EU Eco-label provides a strong marketing advantage to industry at the same time as giving reliable environmental information."
The food industry consistently provides some of the harshest environmental conditions for machinery. The effective lubrication of expensive and varied machinery is a constant problem for food processing plants that often run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Greases must be able to resist moisture, high & low temperatures, shock loading, high speeds as well as attack by acids, alkalines and cleaners. But most of all they must often be H1 or H2 approved by the NSF and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In Europe, there is the Commission Directive 90/128/EEC, which relates to materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs.
Green lubricants that meet these physical requirements could become a growing sector. There is growing pressure on manufacturers not only to operate as efficiently as possible, but as environmentally friendly as possible as well. An EU Eco-label lubricant could help firms reduce harm to water and soil and reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2.
The criteria that lubricants must meet to obtain the Eco-label include an assessment of their toxicity to aquatic environments such as rivers and lakes, their biodegradability, their capacity to accumulate in living organisms, including those in the food chain and the use of renewable energy sources in their production.
The EU Eco-label scheme was established in 1992 to promote products and services with a reduced environmental impact. Each EU Member State has a competent authority, which helps companies that want to obtain the Flower logo provides information on how to apply and checks compliance.
More than 235 licences have been awarded so far, covering several hundred different products. In the last two years, sales of EU Eco-labelled items have risen by more than 200 per cent. The biggest increases have been achieved in Italy, Denmark, France and Spain.