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 we substitute the use of certain chemicals altogether with more environmentally preferable substances. We maintain programs for proper management of the chemicals used in our operations, from selection and purchase to storage, use and final disposal.

To more effectively track IBM's hazardous waste management performance, we developed a methodology in 1992 to correlate the hazardous waste generated from our manufacturing operations relative to production, and 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 a 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 that is attributable to manufacturing processes.

In 2014, IBM's hazardous waste generation indexed to output decreased by 1.7 percent, or approximately 39 metric tons, compared to the goal of a year-to-year reduction. The primary factor for this decrease was a reduction in sludge containing fluoride and heavy metals from wastewater treatment at one manufacturing site.

The total hazardous waste generated by IBM worldwide in 2014 decreased by 45 percent from 2013 to 4,040 metric tons. There were two primary factors for this year-to-year decrease: first, the completion of land remediation programs at two IBM locations in the United States, which generated significant quantities of contaminated soil in 2013, and second, a reduction in industrial wastewater treatment plant (IWTP) sludge classified as hazardous waste from one of our microelectronics manufacturing locations, resulting from the delisting of the waste stream as "hazardous" in 2013. This IWTP sludge is now used as an alternative daily cover for a landfill.

For the hazardous waste that is generated, we focus on preventing pollution through a comprehensive, proactive waste management program. For example, IBM has an active program for increasing the off-site reclamation and beneficial use of waste solvents from photolithography processes.

Of the total 4,040 metric tons of hazardous waste IBM generated worldwide in 2014, 57 percent was recycled, 29 percent was sent off-site for treatment, 11 percent was sent by IBM directly to suitably regulated landfills, and 3 percent was sent for incineration. Of the total amount of hazardous waste sent to landfills, about 58 percent was sludge from IWTPs. Government regulations required disposition of this sludge in secure hazardous waste 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 nonhazardous chemical substances.

We established our first voluntary environmental goal to recycle nonhazardous waste streams in 1988. The goal has since evolved on two fronts. The first expanded 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 returned by external customers at the end of a lease. The second broadened the goal to include nonhazardous waste generated by IBM at leased locations that meet designated criteria.

Our voluntary environmental goal is to send an average of 75 percent of the nonhazardous waste generated by IBM to be recycled. In 2014, we sent 86 percent of the nonhazardous waste generated by IBM worldwide to be recycled.

Treatment methods that were recognized toward the waste recycling target included reuse, recycle, energy recovery, composting, reclamation and land farming. Treatment methods that were not recognized toward the recycling target included incineration, landfilling and treatment, such as aqueous treatment, biodegradation of organics, filtration, neutralization and stabilization.

In 2014, our worldwide operations generated approximately 107,000 metric tons of nonhazardous waste, an increase of 42,000 from 2013. This increase resulted from several large construction projects at IBM locations in 2014. Construction debris accounted for about 48 percent of nonhazardous waste we generated in 2014. Without this waste stream, IBM would have seen a 1,400 metric ton reduction compared to 2013.

Source reduction and waste prevention initiatives implemented by IBM worldwide were estimated to have prevented the generation of over 4,000 metric tons of nonhazardous waste in 2014, with estimated annual handling, treatment and disposal cost savings and revenue returns totaling $5.5 million.