2014 Corporate Responsibility Report

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 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.


In 2014, IBM's hazardous waste generation from manufacturing processes, indexed to output, decreased by 1.7 percent from 2013 — achieving our goal of a year-to-year reduction.

Annual change in hazardous waste generation indexed to output

(Metric tons and % change)


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.

2014 total generated hazardous waste worldwide by treatment method

(4,040 metric tons)


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.


In 2014, IBM sent 86 percent of its nonhazardous waste to be recycled — surpassing our goal of 75 percent.

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.

Total annual nonhazardous waste quantity and recycling performance

(Metric Tons x 1,000)

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Total sent for recycling 56 55 60 56 92
Total Generated 71 70 69 65 107
Percentage sent for recycling 79% 78% 87% 86% 86%

*IBM's goal is to send 75% for recycling.

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.

2014 total nonhazardous waste worldwide by treatment method

(107,000 metric tons)


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:

  • Routine releases of chemicals to the environment (e.g., permitted air emissions and 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 EPCRA is a US reporting requirement, we have voluntarily extended this reporting metric to cover our worldwide operations since 1994. In 2014, IBM’s worldwide reportable quantities of EPCRA-listed chemicals amounted to 2,778 metric tons, representing a decrease of 3.2 percent compared to 2013. More than 77 percent of this quantity was treated on-site or sent off-site for recycling or combustion for energy recovery.

2014 worldwide reportable quantities of EPCRA-listed chemicals*

(2,778 metric tons)


*As defined under Section 313 of the US EPCRA

Worldwide reportable quantities of EPCRA-listed chemicals*, 2010-14

(Metric tons x 1,000)

Env-Pollution-epcra bars

*As defined under Section 313 of the US EPCRA

2014 worldwide reportable quantities of EPCRA-listed chemicals*

Chemical Metric tons
Sulfuric acid (aerosol only) 1,053
Nitrate compound 743
Hydrogen flouride 250
Nitric acid 234
Xylene 146
n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone 126
Ozone 41
Ethylbenzene 31
All Others 154
Total 2,778

*As defined under Section 313 of the US EPCRA

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

In 2014, IBM’s releases of EPCRA-reportable chemicals, indexed to output, increased by 6.2 percent from 2013. The increase resulted from greater nitrate releases at one of our manufacturing locations and the delayed start-up of that location’s nitrate reduction process, which was designed and constructed by IBM voluntarily to address these releases. Releases of nitrate compounds from this location are not regulated by a discharge permit and do not materially impact the quality of the receiving water body. 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. The nitrate reduction process was fully operational from the beginning of 2015.