Biodegradable Lubricants

Use of Biodegradable Lubricants, Bio-lubes, Green Oils or Environmentally Considerate Lubricants (ECLs) is becoming a common contract requirement in lubricant applications where environmental sensitivity is an issue, particularly where access to groundwater, rivers, streams and lakes is a risk.

Storing biodegradable lubricants

You should check if your biodegradable lubricants need to be stored according to legal requirements.

Using ECLs

Applications where use of ECLs is particularly relevant are:

  • total loss systems (chainsaw lubricants, corrosion preventatives, mould release oils)
  • hydraulics for excavators working in environmentally sensitive sites
  • water pumps and grease applications where release into the environment is unavoidable


In the environment ECLs should degrade significantly faster than mineral oils, reducing rapidly to components that are more readily broken down by natural micro-organism activity.

Many biodegradable lubricants are made from natural vegetable oils such as rapeseed or sunflower seed oils. The condition of these products needs to be monitored in use as their service life can vary and may be significantly reduced compared to mineral oils, depending on the type and application.

Lubricants based on synthesised esters can offer excellent service life whilst biodegrading acceptably when necessary. Synthetic ester base lubricants can offer extended service life compared to mineral oils which may go a long way to offset their initial cost.

Original equipment manufacturer warranty

Other types of environmentally friendly lubricants are available. We recommend you consult with the original equipment manufacturer before you use biodegradable lubricants and make sure equipment is compatible with your chosen product and to maintain warranties.

Waste Management

Although ECLs are biodegradable, when they become waste they are classed as hazardous wastes and you should dispose of them safely and legally as you would for any mineral oils; only use authorised waste disposal agents. Don’t mix biodegradable oils with other waste oils, their properties may interfere with waste treatment processes.