Sustainability encompasses a range of activities and product choices that minimise environmental impact to try to ensure that resources and quality of life can be maintained for future generations. Activities that help to prevent the unnecessary depletion of natural resources and maintenance of quality of life are those such as reduction of waste, recycling, composting, selection of biodegradable materials, and the selection of low toxicity and low eco-toxicity materials. The goals of sustainable product development for lubricant manufacturers is to develop easily renewable or recyclable materials that are highly biodegradable and that have the lowest possible toxicity to human health or to ecosystems, whilst still maintaining their effectiveness for purpose.


This is a timely question. The environmental case for sustainability is practically incontrovertible, with the consensus of expert opinion being that greater sustainability delivers improved health and quality of life for all. However, what is the purely business case now that the prices for the largely non-sustainable commodity materials are generally depressed, whereas most of the more sustainable alternatives have shown no such price decrease? Undoubtedly, most businesses encounter many marketing claims that sustainable products will deliver savings over the long term, based on assumed energy use and unit costs and (sometimes optimistic) projections. Rather than add to the volume of such literature, this news item will, instead, simply clarify the commercial advantages of using products that have a high level of biodegradability and renewable carbon to make lubricants.


A commonly held misconception about biodegradable lubricants is that the disposal costs are lower; however, in most regions, this is not the case and biodegradable lubricants are generally disposed by incineration, the same as other waste oil. The advantage of using biodegradable lubricating oil is related to regulations regarding spillage.

Lubricant oil spillages can happen at any time. Prevention measures to rapidly clear up a spillage before it enters the water courses or the soil are usually adequate for very small spills. However, just 1 litre of oil is enough to pollute 1,000,000 litres of water. Water or soil pollution can be absorbed by green plants and, further through the food chain, it can also adversely affect human health; soil pollution can also adversely affect the value of real estate.

Increasing regulation has resulted in fines, prosecutions, and increased administrative costs to polluters in a number of industries. In some industries, the regulatory costs associated with spillage of biodegradable and non bioaccumulating products are much lower than those incurred as a result of spillages of non biodegradable alternatives.


In most regions, all lubricant oils are disposed by incineration, which results in the release of combustion products (chiefly carbon dioxide and water) to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is taken in and used by green plants in photosynthesis and, in turn, some of these green plants are the main source of many of the components of renewable lubricants. National and international targets for the limitation of carbon emissions are a focus for both national climate change committees and international bodies such as the United Nations committee on climate change.

Presently, some of the most potentially polluting industries are subject to climate change levy based on carbon emissions, which can significantly affect their costs. For industries in which these costs are significant, there is a drive towards carbon neutrality. Full carbon neutrality is when an entity achieves zero net carbon emissions, i.e. when its activities remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as it emits. The use of renewable lubricants that are based on components obtained from green plants, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, can be offset against carbon emissions.

Brad-Chem manufacture speciality industrial lubricant additive packages. These are balanced lubricant additive packages that can be added to vegetable base oils and various synthetic base oils in order to manufacture lubricants with a high percentage of renewable carbon, and biodegradable lubricants. We can also supply a range of synthetic Brad-Chem biodegradable lubricants for private label, and synthetic biodegradable base oils such as the Nycobase synthetic esters (many of which contain a high proportion of renewable carbon), and PAOs.