Pollution prevention

The best way to prevent pollution is to reduce the generation of waste at its source. This has been a basic philosophy behind IBM's pollution prevention program since 1971. For the waste that is generated, we focus on preventing pollution through a comprehensive, proactive waste management program. IBM's waste management practices in order of preference as: (1) prevention, (2) reuse, (3) recycling, (4) recovery, (5) other treatment, and (6) land disposal.


Plastic waste prevention

As part of IBM's continual efforts to conserve natural resources and minimize waste, IBM set a goal to eliminate nonessential, single-use plastic items from IBM-managed cafeteria operations globally by 2025. Our focus in 2021 was to engage with our largest cafeteria vendor to identify single-use plastic items used in IBM-managed cafeterias at 37 locations spanning 17 countries. Alternatives for nonessential, single-use plastic items that are either reusable or compatible with each site's local recycling/composting infrastructure were identified and will begin to roll out in 2022.


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. This goal builds upon IBM's prior waste management goals across several decades.

Our operations generated 20,700 metric tons (MT) of nonhazardous waste worldwide in 2021, including IBM-owned nonhazardous end-of- life machines, parts, and materials, which accounted for 48% by weight of IBM's total nonhazardous waste generated worldwide. We diverted 94.2% (by weight) of IBM's total nonhazardous waste from landfill and incineration. Only 9.7% (by weight) of the total nonhazardous waste diverted from landfill and incineration was sent to waste-to-energy processes. For more information, please see the "Pollution prevention and waste management" section of our latest IBM 2021 ESG Report.