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Pollution Prevention

Pollution prevention is a critical aspect of IBM’s environmental efforts, and it includes, among other things, the management of hazardous waste, nonhazardous waste and chemical releases.

Hazardous Waste

The best 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 North American manufacturing operations to their production in 1992 and expanded it to our manufacturing operations worldwide in 1993. We established a voluntary environmental goal based on this methodology in 1995 to drive continual reduction in the hazardous waste generated from these operations, relative to the level of production. The metric covers specific waste streams at IBM’s three microelectronics manufacturing locations that can be linked to production at the locations. These three locations generate more than 90 percent of IBM’s hazardous waste generation attributable to manufacturing, although not all hazardous wastes generated at these locations is indexed to production.

In 2011, IBM’s hazardous waste generation indexed to production output decreased by 3.5 percent, or 88 metric tons, over 2010. This year-over-year decrease was largely attributable to source reduction projects and process line improvements located at two of our three microelectronics manufacturing sites.

Hazardous Waste Generation


In 2011, IBM’s hazardous waste generation indexed to output decreased by 3.5% (88 metric tons) over 2010—achieving our goal of annual year-to-year reduction in hazardous waste generated from IBM’s manufacturing processes indexed to output.

For hazardous waste that is generated, we focus on preventing pollution through a comprehensive, proactive waste management program. Of the nearly 7,700 metric tons of hazardous waste IBM generated worldwide in 2011, 44 percent was recycled and 36 percent was sent to landfills. Of the total amount sent to landfills, 85 percent was sludge from industrial wastewater treatment plants. Government regulations required disposition of this sludge in secure hazardous waste landfills.

Hazardous Waste Management Worldwide

2011 Quantities: 7,700 Metric Tons

2011 Quantities for Hazardous Waste Worldwide

IBM’s total hazardous waste generation has decreased by 36 percent or 4,360 metric tons over the past five years and has decreased by 97 percent or 220,500 metric tons since the 1987 base year of this metric.

Hazardous Waste Quantities Worldwide

Metric Tons × 1,000

2011 Quantities

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 developed 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 in leased locations meeting designated criteria.

In 2011, IBM’s operations generated approximately 70,000 metric tons of nonhazardous waste. This represents a decrease of 1,100 metric tons or 1.5 percent when compared to 2010 quantities. The reduction in waste generated was primarily due to a continued decrease in construction activities at plants and labs located in North America. This was despite an increase of 6 percent in the end-of-life IT equipment being processed from IBM operations in 2011 when compared to 2010 quantities.

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 2011, we recovered and recycled 78 percent of our nonhazardous waste.

Nonhazardous Waste Recycling



Send an average of 75% of the nonhazardous waste generated at locations managed by IBM to be recycled.



In 2011, IBM sent 78% of its nonhazardous waste to be recycled.

Nonhazardous Waste Generated and Recycled from IBM Locations Worldwide
(Metric Tons × 1,000)
Total recycled 84 62 60 56 55
Total generated 107 82 79 71 70
Percent recycled 78% 76% 76% 79% 78%

Management of Chemical Releases

Under Section 313 of the United States Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), companies are required to file an annual inventory of reportable quantities of more than 600 chemicals that were manufactured, processed or otherwise used in quantities exceeding the reporting threshold of 10,000 pounds (4.54 metric tons) for the preceding calendar year. These reportable quantities include:

  • Routine releases of chemicals to the environment (e.g., permitted air emissions, permitted water discharges, etc.)
  • Chemical quantities that are treated, recycled or combusted for energy recovery on-site
  • Chemical quantities that are sent off-site for recycling, combustion for energy recovery, treatment or disposal

Though this is a United States reporting requirement, we've voluntarily extended this reporting metric to cover our worldwide operations since 1994. In 2011, IBM’s worldwide reportable quantities of EPCRA-listed chemicals amounted to 3,233 metric tons. More than 84 percent of this quantity was treated on-site or sent off-site for recycling or combustion for energy recovery.

2011 Worldwide Reportable Quantities of EPCRA-Listed Chemicals

(3,233 Metric Tons)

Worldwide Reportable Quantities Associated with Chemicals on the United States Toxic Release Inventory List
Worldwide Reportable Quantities of EPCRA-Listed Chemicals, 2007–2011

(Metric Tons × 1000)

Worldwide Reportable Quantities Associated with Chemicals on the United States Toxic Release Inventory List
2011 Worldwide Reportable Quantities of EPCRA-Listed Chemicals
ChemicalMetric Tons
Sulfuric acid (aerosol only) 1,260
Nitrate compound 668
Xylene 517
Hydrogen fluoride 179
Nitric acid 168
n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone 132
Ethylbenzene 111
Ozone 42
All others 156
Total 3,233

IBM’s voluntary goal in this area is to achieve year-to-year reduction in routine releases of EPCRA reportable chemicals to the environment, indexed to output.

In 2011, IBM’s routine releases of EPCRA reportable chemicals to the environment indexed to output increased by 4.2 percent from the prior year. This year-over-year increase was largely attributable to process changes at one of our manufacturing sites—changes that required an increased use of ammonium and nitrate compounds, and therefore increased the final effluent nitrate discharge from that site. We continue to invest in process upgrades and treatments aimed at reducing the presence of these compounds in our effluents.