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 manufacturing operations relative to production in 1992. We established a voluntary environmental goal based on this methodology in 1995 to drive continual reduction in the hazardous waste generated from these operations.

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 the majority of IBM's hazardous waste attributable to manufacturing processes.

In 2013, IBM's hazardous waste generation indexed relative to production output increased by 4.2 percent, or approximately 100 metric tons, compared to 2012. There were two primary factors for this year-to-year increase: first, an increase in fluoride/heavy metal sludge generation at the Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant (IWTP) at one of the manufacturing sites as a result of increased hydrofluoric acid chemical usage, and second, an increased use of a photoresist solvent with a corresponding increase in bulk waste solvent generation. The increase in hydrofluoric acid usage was due to the continued transition to single wafer tools and processes at thinner line width integrated circuit technologies -- a continuing trend occurring across the semiconductor industry. The increase in bulk waste solvent generation was due to a higher use of the specific photoresist in the photolithography process to improve wafer yields. The waste solvent was sent by IBM to be recycled.

For the hazardous waste that is generated, we focus on preventing pollution through a comprehensive, proactive waste management program. For example, the spent 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 increasing the off-site reclamation and beneficial use of the primary spent solvent in this waste.

Of the total 7,450 metric tons of hazardous waste IBM generated worldwide in 2013, 34 percent was recycled, while 26 percent was sent off-site for treatment, 39 percent was sent by IBM directly to suitably regulated landfills, and 1 percent was sent for incineration worldwide.

At the end of 2012, one of IBM's microelectronics manufacturing locations successfully concluded an initiative to have its IWTP sludge delisted from a hazardous waste to a nonhazardous waste, pursuant to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. As a consequence, beginning in 2013, the EPA and the relevant state regulatory agency authorized a beneficial use of the 2,200 metric tons of sludge this IBM location generated in 2013 as an "Alternative Daily Cover" for a landfill in Vermont. As such, this application helped the landfill operator avoid the purchase of other clean fill materials for the required cover.

In 2013, our worldwide operations generated and sent off-site for treatment approximately one percent more hazardous waste compared to 2012. The disposal of 2,300 metric tons of soil sent to landfill from a soil removal project at one manufacturing site in the United States was a factor influencing this result. Government regulations required disposition of the excavated soil in a secure landfill.

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 evolved 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 at our leased locations, meeting designated criteria.

In 2013, our worldwide operations generated and sent for treatment off-site approximately 65,100 metric tons of nonhazardous waste, a reduction of 3,800 metric tons (five percent) compared to 2012. This reduction was achieved despite the inclusion of over 2,200 metric tons of the IWTP sludge categorized as hazardous waste in 2012 being de-listed to nonhazardous waste, as previously outlined in this report. Source reduction and waste prevention initiatives implemented by IBM worldwide were estimated to have prevented the generation of over 8,100 metric tons of nonhazardous waste, with estimated annual handling, treatment and disposal cost savings and revenue returns totaling $9.8 million.

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 2013, 86 percent of the nonhazardous waste generated by IBM worldwide was sent to be recycled.

Treatment methods that were credited toward the waste recycling target included: recycle, reuse, energy recovery, composting, reclamation, fuel blending, and land farming. Treatment methods that were not credited toward the recycling target included:

  • Incineration
  • Landfilling
  • Treatment, such as aqueous treatment, biodegradation of organics, filtration, neutralization and stabilization

The majority of materials recovered from nonhazardous waste and sent to be recycled included: paper and cardboard, metals, plastics, furniture, wood, construction debris, cafeteria waste, waste chemicals, and mixed waste. Materials sent by IBM for landfilling or incineration as treatment for final disposal were primarily construction debris and mixed waste.