Pollution prevention

Hazardous waste

One way to prevent pollution is to reduce the generation of hazardous waste at its source. This has been a basic philosophy behind IBM's pollution prevention program since 1971.Where possible, we redesign processes to eliminate or reduce chemical use and substitute more environmentally preferable chemicals. We maintain programs for proper management of the chemicals needed for research, development and manufacturing, from selection and purchase to storage, use and final disposal.

To more effectively track IBM's hazardous waste management performance, we developed a methodology to correlate the hazardous waste generated from our North American manufacturing operations to their production in 1992 and expanded it to our manufacturing operations worldwide in 1993. We established a voluntary environmental goal based on this methodology in 1995 to drive continual reduction in the hazardous waste generated from these operations, relative to the level of production.

The goal is to achieve year-to-year reduction in hazardous waste generation from IBM's manufacturing processes indexed to output. The metric is measured at IBM's three microelectronics manufacturing locations that generate more than 90 percent (5,357 metric tons) of IBM's hazardous waste generation attributable to manufacturing processes (5,841 metric tons), although not all hazardous waste generated at these locations are indexed to production.

In 2012, IBM's hazardous waste generation indexed to output increased by 2.9 percent, or 68 metric tons, compared to 2011. There were two primary factors for this year-to-year increase: 1) an increased quantity of a hazardous waste solvent from a photolithography process, and 2) an increase in a hazardous waste stream from another wafer production line caused by a tool set problem that temporarily resulted in additional water entering the waste stream before the problem could be addressed.

For the hazardous waste that is generated, we focus on preventing pollution through a comprehensive, proactive waste management program. For example, the waste solvents from photolithography are considered hazardous waste by regulatory definition and are therefore included in our hazardous waste metric. However, IBM has an active program for the off-site reclamation and beneficial use of the primary spent solvent in this waste.

Of the almost 7,400 metric tons of total hazardous waste IBM generated worldwide in 2012, 36 percent was recycled, 14 percent was sent off-site for treatment, 11 percent was sent for incineration, and the rest was sent to suitable regulated landfills worldwide. Of the total amount sent to landfills, approximately 90 percent were hazardous waste sludges generated from on-site industrial wastewater treatment processes. Government regulations required disposition of these hazardous waste sludges in secure landfills.


Nonhazardous waste

IBM also has focused for decades on preventing the generation of nonhazardous waste, and where this is not practical, recovering and recycling the materials that are generated. Nonhazardous waste includes paper, wood, metals, glass, plastics and other nonhazardous chemical substances.

We established IBM's first voluntary environmental goal to recycle nonhazardous waste streams in 1988. The goal has since developed on two fronts. The first expanded on the traditional dry waste streams to include nonhazardous chemical waste and end-of-life IT equipment from our own operations as well as IBM-owned equipment that is returned by external customers at the end of a lease. The second expansion was made to include nonhazardous waste generated by IBM in leased locations meeting designated criteria.

In 2012, IBM's worldwide operations generated approximately 68,900 metric tons of nonhazardous waste. This represents an absolute reduction of an estimated 1,200 metric tons, or 2 percent, when compared to 2011 quantities. The reduction was despite an annual increase in the generation of construction debris and an increase in end-of-life IT equipment and parts managed by IBM in 2012, when compared to 2011 quantities. Waste reduction and avoidance initiatives by IBM worldwide were estimated to have prevented the generation of 2,400 metric tons of nonhazardous waste, with estimated annual handling, treatment and disposal cost savings and revenue returns totaling $1.8 million. In addition, IBM worldwide product end-of-life management (PELM) operations reused 2,673 metric tons of end-of-life IT equipment and parts that were recovered during 2012.

Our voluntary environmental goal is to send an average of 75 percent of the nonhazardous waste generated at locations managed by IBM to be recycled. In 2012, we recovered and sent 87 percent of nonhazardous waste generated from designated IBM locations to be recycled.

The increase in our recycling rate for 2012 was partially attributable to the recategorization of some general office waste streams in Europe to indicate that they are being sent for energy recovery at controlled incineration facilities. IBM categorizes incineration with energy recovery as a method of recycling for the purposes of reporting against this goal. Ongoing reforms to waste management legislation in Europe are requiring that certain solid waste streams previously disposed of in landfills be diverted by waste management suppliers to beneficial reuse practices such as energy recovery.