IBM Plastics Recycling Performance Wanes

by | Jul 6, 2009

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ibm-recycling-figsCompared to heady growth in recycling figures from 2004 to 2006, IBM’s more recent performance on using recycled plastics has dropped slightly, with the percentage of locations meeting recycling goals dropping precipitously. However, the company’s commitment to renewable energy continues to inch upwards.

Just 41 percent of IBM locations met their annual recycling goals in 2008, down from 52 percent in 2007 and 63 percent in 2006, according to IBM’s 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report (PDF), which includes information from 2008, as well as snippets from the first half of 2009. In the future, IBM notes that it will release its annual CSR reports in the second quarter of the year.

The company used recycled plastic for 10.3 percent of its 2008 plastics purchases. That figure is down from 10.6 percent in 2007 and 11.7 percent in 2006.

Here are some more highlights from the report.

  • In 2008, IBM used 450 million kWh of renewable energy for 8.6 percent of its energy needs, compared to 0.2 percent in 2001.
  • From 1990 to 2008, the company has saved 4.9 billion kilowatt hours of electricity as a result of conservation practices, avoiding 3.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and saving $343 million in energy expenses.
  • In 2008, IBM consolidated certain server operations of 19 data centers, saving 10 million kWh and $1 million.
  • Using its own Mobile Measurement Technology, a thermal mapping tool, IBM surveyed nine of its data centers and identified opportunities to reduce electricity demand by 7 percent.
  • The company’s 2008 emissions of perfluorocompounds (PFCs) were down 30.4 percent, compared to a 1995 baseline of 381,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
  • IBM is investing in solar technology, smart grids and repurposing scrap silicon wafers.
  • The company continues to evaluate more environmentally preferable substances and materials in its manufacturing processes. This includes efforts to eliminate perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA).
  • To improve social responsibility aspects of its supply chain, IBM had conducted, as of the end of 2008, 553 initial audits of suppliers.

IBM paints itself as addressing what it calls a “series of wake-up calls” in the first decade of the 21st century. Those include climate change and resulting food shortages, growth in energy demand and the realization that the world will face severe water shortages.

The company points to its Corporate Services Corps as its version of a “corporate Peace Corps.” The corps travels the world looking for ways to solve environmental and societal problems with improved technology. To date, 68 nations have benefited from its work.

When it comes to global contributions and the environment, however, IBM’s commitment is tiny compared to its emphasis on improved education. In 2008, IBM gave $2.2 million toward the environment, compared to $128 million toward education.

When judged by the Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge, IBM and Sun Microsystems were the top ranking companies, with scores of 29 out of 100.

Here is a look at IBM’s ratio of waste going to landfills versus reuse or recycle.

recycleHere is a look at IBM’s energy conservation and renewable energy figures.


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