Pollution prevention

We believe the best way to prevent pollution is to avoid the generation of waste at its source. This has been a basic philosophy behind IBM's pollution prevention program since 1971. For waste that is generated, we minimize pollution through a comprehensive and proactive waste management program that calls for implementation of the following practices, in order of preference: (1) reuse, (2) recycling, (3) recovery (e.g., waste-to-energy), (4) other treatment (e.g., aqueous and chemical treatments, incineration), and (5) land disposal.

Nonhazardous waste

IBM established its first voluntary environmental goal to recycle nonhazardous waste streams in 1988. Since then, we have expanded the goal to include nonhazardous chemical waste, end-of-life IT equipment from our own operations, IBM-owned equipment that is returned by customers at the end of a lease, and nonhazardous waste generated by IBM at larger leased locations.

In 2021, IBM updated its nonhazardous waste goal to divert 90% or more (by weight) of IBM's total nonhazardous waste from landfill and incineration by 2025, through reuse, recycling, composting, and waste-to-energy processes, and to use waste-to-energy processes for no more than 10% (by weight) of the diverted waste. The goal scope encompasses IBM-owned locations and leased locations of 100,000 square feet or greater worldwide, and also builds upon IBM's prior waste management goals across several decades.

In 2022, our reporting locations generated nearly 14,800 metric tons of nonhazardous waste worldwide, diverting 93.8% (by weight) of IBM's total nonhazardous waste from landfill or incineration, and meeting the first component of our goal. Of the total amount diverted, however, 11.9% (by weight) was sent to waste-to-energy processes. We continue to work toward reducing the amount of material sent to waste-to-energy processes to reduce this percentage to less than 10% and achieve the second component of our goal.

Plastic waste

As part of IBM's continual efforts to conserve natural resources and minimize waste, the company set a goal to eliminate nonessential, single-use plastic items from IBM-managed cafeteria operations globally by 2025. In 2022, we continued our efforts with our largest cafeteria vendor (based on 2021 spend) and successfully eliminated or replaced all nonessential, single-use plastic items from 21 IBM-managed cafeterias operated by this vendor in the U.S., Latin America and Canada.¹ Some examples included replacing plastic knives, forks and spoons with metal or bamboo alternatives, and replacing plastic containers with paper-based containers. Collectively, these efforts eliminated the annual use of approximately 11.9 MT (1.4 million items) of nonessential, single-use plastic items. Our focus in 2023 will be engaging with our remaining cafeteria vendors.

¹The vendor previously removed all nonessential, single-use plastic items at IBM-managed cafeterias located in countries in the European Union (EU) in accordance with the EU Directive, 2019/904, on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, and national implementing laws in Europe.

Hazardous waste

IBM operations generate small quantities of hazardous waste. In 2022, IBM generated approximately 680 metric tons of hazardous waste, of which 63.8% (by weight) was sent for recycling.

Wastewater discharges

Water discharges are managed at a location level and discharge information is reported to regulatory agencies where required. Internally, IBM also tracks, reports and manages total water discharges from IBM locations worldwide that have site regulatory wastewater discharge permits. IBM measures and manages wastewater discharges at applicable IBM locations for maintaining operational conditions and compliance with discharge permits. IBM’s global environmental management system establishes treatment requirements applicable to IBM locations where they discharge directly to receiving waters. IBM locations with industrial or sanitary wastewater treatment plants on site that are processing industrial or sanitary wastewater must adhere to these IBM corporate requirements wherever they may be located.

Air emissions

Air emissions associated with IBM’s operations remain relatively small, primarily associated with combustion of natural gas for space heating and diesel fuel for generating emergency power when needed. In addition, there is a limited amount of fugitive emissions of chemicals coming from research and development processes. As part of our global environmental management system, IBM sets and implements requirements such as limiting fuel sulfur content and use of high efficiency boilers to minimize our air emissions.

IBM’s point source air emissions during 2022 were estimated to be:

  • 33.6 metric tons of Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • 17.6 metric tons of Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • 10.0 metric tons of Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  •  4.6 metric tons of Particulate matter (PM)
  • 1.2 metric tons of Sulphur oxides (SOx)

Note: The figures above do not include emissions of refrigerants and greenhouse gas emissions which are reported separately.

Ozone depleting substances

Ozone Depleting Substances have been prohibited from use at IBM for hardware development and manufacturing processes and products for decades as follows:

  • 1990 - Prohibited as expansion agents used in packaging;
  • 1993 - Class I ozone depleting chemicals eliminated from use in development and manufacturing processes, and prohibited from use in products;
  • 1995 - Class II ozone depleting chemicals eliminated from use in development and manufacturing processes, and prohibited from use in products.