Pollution Prevention

Pollution Prevention

Pollution prevention is an important aspect of IBM’s longstanding 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 manufacturing operations relative to production in 1992. We 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 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 attributable to manufacturing processes.

In 2013, IBM’s hazardous waste generation indexed relative to production output increased by 4.2 percent, or approximately 100 metric tons, compared to 2012. There were two primary factors for this year-to-year increase: first, an increase in fluoride/heavy metal sludge generation at the Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant (IWTP) at one of the manufacturing sites as a result of increased hydrofluoric acid chemical usage, and second, an increased use of a photoresist solvent with a corresponding increase in bulk waste solvent generation. The increase in hydrofluoric acid usage was due to the continued transition to single wafer tools and processes at thinner line width integrated circuit technologies—a continuing trend occurring across the semiconductor industry. The increase in bulk waste solvent generation was due to a higher use of the specific photoresist in the photolithography process to improve wafer yields. The waste solvent was sent by IBM to be recycled.


In 2013, IBM's hazardous waste generation indexed to output increased over 2012 by 4.2% despite ongoing, focused reduction efforts.


For the hazardous waste that is generated, we focus on preventing pollution through a comprehensive, proactive waste management program. For example, the spent solvents from photolithography are considered hazardous waste by regulatory definition and are therefore included in our hazardous waste metric. However, IBM has an active program for increasing the off-site reclamation and beneficial use of the primary spent solvent in this waste.

Of the total 7,450 metric tons of hazardous waste IBM generated worldwide in 2013, 34 percent was recycled, while 26 percent was sent off-site for treatment, 39 percent was sent by IBM directly to suitably regulated landfills, and 1 percent was sent for incineration worldwide.

At the end of 2012, one of IBM’s microelectronics manufacturing locations successfully concluded an initiative to have its IWTP sludge delisted from a hazardous waste to a nonhazardous waste, pursuant to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. As a consequence, beginning in 2013, the EPA and the relevant state regulatory agency authorized a beneficial use of the 2,200 metric tons of sludge this IBM location generated in 2013 as an “Alternative Daily Cover” for a landfill in Vermont. As such, this application helped the landfill operator avoid the purchase of other clean fill materials for the required cover.

In 2013, our worldwide operations generated and sent off-site for treatment approximately one percent more hazardous waste compared to 2012. The disposal of 2,300 metric tons of soil sent to landfill from a soil removal project at one manufacturing site in the United States was a factor influencing this result. Government regulations required disposition of the excavated soil in a secure landfill.


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 our first voluntary environmental 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 our leased locations, meeting designated criteria.

In 2013, our worldwide operations generated and sent for treatment off-site approximately 65,100 metric tons of nonhazardous waste, a reduction of 3,800 metric tons (five percent) compared to 2012. This reduction was achieved despite the inclusion of over 2,200 metric tons of the IWTP sludge categorized as hazardous waste in 2012 being de-listed to nonhazardous waste, as previously outlined in this report. Source reduction and waste prevention initiatives implemented by IBM worldwide were estimated to have prevented the generation of over 8,100 metric tons of nonhazardous waste, with estimated annual handling, treatment and disposal cost savings and revenue returns totaling $9.8 million.

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 2013, 86 percent of the nonhazardous waste generated by IBM worldwide was sent to be recycled.

Treatment methods that were credited toward the waste recycling target included: recycle, reuse, energy recovery, composting, reclamation, fuel blending, and land farming. Treatment methods that were not credited toward the recycling target included:

The majority of materials recovered from nonhazardous waste and sent to be recycled included: paper and cardboard, metals, plastics, furniture, wood, construction debris, cafeteria waste, waste chemicals, and mixed waste. Materials sent by IBM for landfilling or incineration as treatment for final disposal were primarily construction debris and mixed waste.


IBM's goal is to send an average of 75% of the nonhazardous waste generated at locations managed by IBM to be recycled.


In 2013, IBM sent 86% of its nonhazardous waste to be recycled.

Total Annual Nonhazardous Waste Quantity and Recycling Performance

(Metric Tons x 1,000)

  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Total sent for recycling 60 56 55 60 56
Total generated 79 71 70 69 65
Percentage recycled* 76% 79% 78% 87% 86%

* Percent recycled versus the target of 75%


Management of chemical releases

Under Section 313 of the US 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:

Though EPCRA is a US reporting requirement, we have voluntarily extended this reporting metric to cover our worldwide operations since 1994. In 2013, IBM’s worldwide reportable quantities of EPCRA-listed chemicals amounted to 2,857 metric tons, representing an increase of 2.1 percent compared to 2012. More than 78 percent of this quantity was treated on-site or sent off-site for recycling or combustion for energy recovery.


2013 Worldwide Reportable Quantities of EPCRA-Listed Chemicals

Chemical Metric Tons
Sulfuric acid (Aerosol only) 1,167
Nitrate compound 756
Xylene 115
Hydrogen fluoride 246
Nitric acid 207
n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone 143
Ethylbenzyne 25
Ozone 37
All others 161
Total 2,857

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 2013, IBM’s routine releases of EPCRA reportable chemicals indexed to output increased by 15.4 percent from the prior year. The primary reason for this year-over-year increase was due to an increase in nitrate releases indexed to output at one of our manufacturing sites and the delayed start-up of that site’s nitrate reduction process, which was designed and constructed on a voluntary basis to address these releases. Releases of nitrate compounds from this facility are not regulated by the facility's discharge permit and are not impacting the quality of the receiving water body in a material way. However, limiting discharges of nitrate compounds is a requirement of IBM’s own corporate environmental practices. Accordingly, we invested in process upgrades and treatments aimed at reducing nitrate discharges in our effluents. We expect the nitrate reduction process to be in operation in the second half of 2014.