Pollution prevention is an important aspect of IBM’s long-standing environmental efforts and it includes, among other things, the management of wastes.


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 and to substitute more environmentally preferable chemicals. 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.

65%

Of the total 1,360 metric tons of hazardous waste IBM generated worldwide in 2016, 65 percent (by weight) was recycled.

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.

65%

Of the total 1,360 metric tons of hazardous waste IBM generated worldwide in 2016, 65 percent (by weight) was recycled.

2016 total generated hazardous waste worldwide by treatment method

2016 total generated hazardous waste worldwide by treatment method 65% Recycled 18% Landfill 14% Incineration 3% Treatment 1,360 metric tons

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 nonhazardous chemical substances.

86%

In 2016, IBM sent 86 percent (by weight) of its nonhazardous waste to be recycled — surpassing our goal of 75 percent.

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 leased locations meeting designated criteria.

86%

In 2016, IBM sent 86 percent (by weight) of its nonhazardous waste to be recycled — surpassing our goal of 75 percent.

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

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

Total annual nonhazardous waste quantity and recycling performance

(Metric tons x 1,000)

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2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Total sent for recycling 60 56 92 46 38
Total generated 69 65 107 53 44
Percent recycled (by weight) 87% 86% 86% 85% 86%

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.

2016 total generated nonhazardous waste worldwide by treatment method

2016 total generated nonhazardous waste worldwide by treatment method 86% Recycled 12% Landfilled and incinerated 2% Other treatments 44,000 metric tons

Download the 2016 report