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Hydraulic Fluids Used in Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry


Every aspect of industrial, commercial or domestic activity impacts people and the environment. The lubricants used in all activities, including transportation, agriculture, mining and manufacturing, are no exception. While the health, safety and environmental issues that confront the lubricants industry are little different from those that face many other industries, they are still formidable and present a number of technical and commercial dilemmas, some of which are unavoidable.


From a marketing perspective, it must be emphasised that the important commercial issues are not those of actual technical hazard or risk, but those perceived by customers, all of whom are members of the general public. All too often, there are significant differences between the actual hazard and the perceived hazard, such that members of the public can be more concerned than they should be. However, public perceptions are much more important than technical facts, since unconvinced customers are unlikely to buy and worried customers are more likely to switch to a product or service which is perceived to be ‘better’.


In recent years, concern over the potential impact of petroleum-based lubricants on the environment has created an opportunity to promote environmentally acceptable alternatives. The use of environmentally responsible lubricants began to grow in many countries in Europe and in North America almost twenty years ago.


Environmentally responsible lubricants can be described as environmentally friendly lubricants (EFLs), environmentally adapted lubricants (EALs), environmentally considerate lubricants (ECLs) or biodegradable lubricants. Bio-lubricants have been developed as one type of environmentally friendly product, having started as oils or greases made from vegetable oils, such as rapeseed oil, sunflower oil or soybean oil. Some synthetic lubricants, particularly diesters and polyol esters, can be even more friendly to the environment than bio-lubricants.


The individual and/or collective characteristics of EFLs can be: • Energy saving. • Longer operating life: less waste. • Lower consumption: less disposal. • Recyclable. • Biodegradable. • Low eco-toxicity. • Low pollution risk: water, soil and air.


Biodegradation is the chemical breakdown caused by organisms, particularly bacteria and fungi. Two common measures of biodegradation are primary (incomplete) degradation, in which chemical compounds are converted into simpler chemical compounds, and ultimate (complete) degradation, in which the only end products are carbon dioxide, water and any indigestible inorganic elements.


Two other commonly used terms are readily and inherently biodegradable. A readily biodegradable fluid will undergo primary degradation greater than 80% within 21 days or ultimate degradation greater than 60% within 28 days. Inherently biodegradable fluids break down more slowly over time, usually measured in months or years.


Many tests exist with which to measure biodegradation. The most frequently used are OECD 301 or ASTM D5864 for ultimate degradation and CEC-L-33-A-93 for primary degradation.


Eco-toxicity is a measurement of the concentration required to kill various organisms over a short period of time, usually ranging from 24 to 96 hours. The toxicity of a fluid is described by a loading rate in parts per million (ppm) of fluid that has a 50% effect or causes 50% mortality of the organisms after the test time.


It is important to emphasise that both biodegradability and non-toxicity are relative terms. Environmental friendliness does


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LUBE MAGAZINE NO.132 APRIL 2016


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