One of the challenges faced by the food and beverage industries is the ever-growing need for safe environmental materials and the safety of the consumable product itself.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to lubricants. While it is, of course, crucial that such products conform to various stipulations regarding incidental contact with foodstuffs for human consumption, up until recently, the requirements for environmental sensitivities have not been a strong focal point.
As we forge into a new world of planet-friendly responsibilities, standards continue to be drawn up that cover many significant areas. These include raw material selection, release and disposal. Terminology is also under discussion, as currently, there are no universal definitions.
Interpretation of Environmentally Friendly Lubricants (EFLs)
The current issues are that companies who create EFLs for the food and beverage industry are free to use a variety of terms to indicate environmental considerations. Some that are commonly seen are:
- Environmentally friendly
- Environmentally advantaged
- Environmentally acceptable
The problem is that this might only refer to a single element, such as selecting the base oil ingredients or the absence or low levels of additives that are known to have unwanted effects on flora and fauna.
Biodegradability is a single aspect of EFLs – and a vital one. So, what does the term mean?
Defining Biodegradable Lubricants
Quite simply, this means the ability for a lubricant to decompose purely by encountering naturally occurring bacteria within soil and water. The breakdown happens because the bacteria react with hydrocarbons within the base oil and turn them into water, CO2, and trace minerals that harmlessly dissipate into their surroundings.
Laboratory tests define two levels of biodegradability: primary and ultimate. These are determined after the product has been allowed to break down for 28 days. They are then given a rating as per the following four definitions:
- Non-biodegradable: None or a negligible breakdown of the product
- Inherently biodegradable: Breaks down anything from 20-60 per cent – either primary or ultimate degradation
- Readily biodegradable: Breaks down at 60 per cent or more – “Arbitrary classification of chemicals, which have passed certain specified screening tests for ultimate biodegradability. These tests are so stringent that it is assumed that such compounds will rapidly and completely biodegrade in aquatic environments, under aerobic conditions.”
- Ultimately biodegradable: Breaks down at 60 per cent or more – “The level of degradation achieved when the test compound is utilised by microorganisms resulting in the production of carbon dioxide, water, mineral salts, and new microbial cellular constituents.”
When we consider this ambiguous terminology, it becomes easy to see how a lubricant that might, at face value, appear to be ecologically friendly isn’t quite as good for the planet as it seems.
This makes it essential for purchasers to do their homework before deciding on the right lubricant for food and beverage equipment.
The Selection of Lubricants
When choosing an environmentally friendly food-grade lubricant, while performance and adherence to safety legislation is rightly at the head of the priority list, it’s also necessary to consider the following:
- Is it made from renewable resources?
- Can it meet the stringent demands of the food and beverage industry?
- Is the lubricant biodegradable – and if so, to what level?
- Is it free from animal products or animal-derived by-products?
Only by taking all these into account can a business be sure that they’re committing to the essential wellbeing of the planet.
Chesterton is a sealing and rotating machinery specialist that’s committed to the provision of world-beating environmental products. Leading the way with NSF-certified mechanical seals specifically designed for the food and beverage industry, Chesterton now offers an advanced, high-performing lubricant – the Chesterton 650 AML – that outperforms virtually all of its competitors and is readily biodegradable.
Chesterton 650 AML is engineered with a unique ester blend of plant-based natural and synthetic technology, making it environmentally friendly and worker safe and is free of any animal fats, oils, and animal-derived by-products.
Both these products, combined with the introduction of ARC food-grade coating for equipment and vessels exposed to abrasion and fine-grade particle erosion, makes Chesterton the ultimate go-to provider for equipment longevity and environmental protectivity.