Pollution prevention

Hazardous waste

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. Where possible, we redesign processes to eliminate or reduce chemical use or to replace chemicals with more environmentally preferable substitutes. We maintain programs for proper management of the chemicals used in our operations, from selection and purchase to storage, use and final disposal.

IBM's total hazardous waste generation in 2016 decreased by 36 percent from 2015, to 1,360 metric tons. This reduction was primarily associated with the divestiture of IBM's semiconductor manufacturing operations in 2015. If hazardous waste from those operations was removed, IBM would have seen a 14 percent reduction of hazardous waste generation in 2016.

For the hazardous waste that is generated, we focus on preventing pollution through a comprehensive, proactive waste management program. Of the total 1,360 metric tons of hazardous waste IBM generated worldwide in 2016, 65 percent (by weight) was recycled, 18 percent was sent directly by IBM to suitably regulated landfills, 14 percent was sent for incineration, and 3 percent was sent off-site for treatment.


Nonhazardous waste

IBM has also 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 our first voluntary 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 leased locations meeting designated criteria.

Our voluntary environmental goal is to send an average of 75 percent (by weight) of the nonhazardous waste generated at locations managed by IBM to be recycled. In 2016, we sent 86 percent of the nonhazardous waste generated by IBM worldwide to be recycled.

Treatment methods that are credited toward the waste recycling target included: reuse, recycle, energy recovery, composting, reclamation and land farming. Treatment methods that result in a non-beneficial use and that are not credited toward our recycling target included incineration, landfilling, and treatments such as aqueous treatment, biodegradation of organics, filtration, neutralization and stabilization.

In 2016, our worldwide operations generated approximately 44,000 metric tons of nonhazardous waste, a decrease of 9,000 metric tons from 2015. This significant reduction was largely due to the divestiture of IBM's semiconductor manufacturing operations in 2015. Excluding wastes associated with divested semiconductor operations, IBM would have seen a 500-metric-ton reduction in nonhazardous waste generated in 2016.

Source reduction and waste prevention initiatives implemented by IBM worldwide were estimated to have prevented the generation of about 225 metric tons of nonhazardous waste in 2016, with estimated annual handling, treatment and disposal cost savings and revenue returns totaling $2.2 million.