EU Plugs ‘Green’ Lubes


The European Union has added lubricants to the list of products eligible to carry its Eco-label, establishing the first regionwide program to identify lubes that have relatively low environmental impact.

The EUs decision, announced May 12, allows marketers to display its flower logo (see image below) on certain types of oils and greases demonstrated to cause lower levels of harm to soil and water and to generate reduced air pollutants.

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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 Stavros Dimas, environment commissioner for the EU. 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 to consumers.

Industry sources predicted the label will gain wide use by lube marketers because Europeans generally show a relatively high level of concern for environmental matters. But one marketer complained that the EUs standard for lubricants is too lenient.

We think the idea of using the Eco-label [for lubricants] is very, very interesting, said Hans Jonnson, president of Cargo Oil AB in Gothenburg, Sweden. But the criteria they set up are so low that we are not sure it will have much meaning.

Jonnson said the Swedish government established a tougher standard for lubricants more than a decade ago, andit is widely recognized in Sweden and in some other European countries that do not have their own standard. He added that Cargo plans to display the Eco-label on products that it exports.

TheEU established the Eco-label program in 1992 as a way of helping consumers identify green products. It now has criteria for 23 different categories of products, ranging from household appliances and paper products to textiles, paints and tourist accommodations. The organization has issued licenses for more than 230 products and claims that sales of products carrying the logo more than tripled the past two years.

The types of lubricants eligible to display the label include hydraulic oils, greases, chainsaw oils, two stroke oils, concrete release agents and other total loss lubricants. Although motor oils are not covered at this time, theEU specifically stated that they may be added in the future.

The standard for lubricants includes tests for biodegradability and aquatic toxicity, and prohibits or limits use of a variety of chemicals. To qualify for a license, marketers must provide documentation that they have met the standard and pay an application fee of 300 (U.S. $377)to 1,300 plus anannual fee. The latter is assessed according to sales volumes within the EU, with a minimum of 500 and maximum of 25,000 per product group for each applicant.

The European Unionincludes most of Western and Central Europe. To view the lubricant standard or obtain other information about the program, visit

The EU flower Eco-label that will soon appear onlubricants:

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