Research on Sustainable Production & Consumption

UPSTREAM conducts original research on the environmental and societal impacts of our unsustainable production and consumption systems.


Advancing Local Government’s Interests Through Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging a discussion paper from a six-month dialogue among local government officials, convened by UPSTREAM. The paper identifies key local government issues and concerns regarding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging; recommends processes for addressing potential local government issues with the establishment and implementation of EPR programs; and provides a platform for local governments to support and advocate for EPR.


Producer Responsibility: The Cornerstone of Zero Waste.
By Bill Sheehan – 2013. Chapter in Paul Connett, The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time (Chelsea Green, CO). Analyzes trends in Extended Producer Responsibility legislation in the United States, including framework, EPR for packaging, and the lack of federal policy.


Climate Change, Peak Oil, and the End of WasteClimate Change, Peak Oil, and the End of Waste. By Bill Sheehan and Helen Spiegelman – 2010. Chapter in The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises, edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch (Watershed Media, CA). Analyzes the effects of the rise of the throw-away society on climate change and discusses responsibilities of communities, producers and activists.


Products, Packaging and US Greenhouse Gas EmissionsProducts, Packaging and US Greenhouse Gas Emissions. By Joshua Stolaroff, Ph.D. – 2009. Showed that products and packaging account for 44% of the United States’s global greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts – more than heating and cooling of buildings, local passenger transportation, or food production. Extends the findings of a U.S. EPA report, covering only emissions produced within the United States. Both reports used “consumption-based” GHG accounting which accounts for emissions embodied in manufactured goods “consumed” by end users.

Governance of Integrated Product PolicyExtended Producer Responsibility Policies in the United States and Canada: History and Status. By Bill Sheehan and Helen Spiegelman – 2006. Chapter in Dirk Scheer and Frieder Rubik, editors, Governance of Integrated Product Policy: In Search of Sustainable Production and Consumption (Greenleaf, UK).  The paper describes how Canada progressed beyond debating whether to adopt extended producer responsibility (EPR) to focusing on how to make it work, while the United States focused on voluntary initiatives until NGOs put legislative solutions back on the public agenda.

Unintended ConsequencesUnintended Consequences: Municipal Solid Waste Management and the Throwaway Society. By Helen Spiegelman and Bill Sheehan – 2005. Examines the evolution of the “municipal solid waste” system over the last century and links the rise in product and packaging waste to public policy. The analysis concludes that provision of “free” waste disposal services by local governments acts as a subsidy enabling manufacturers to market toxic and throwaway products and packaging.

In addition to these publications, we regularly conduct research and develop informational papers, presentations and fact sheets to help public interest organizations, policy makers, government officials and leading companies advocate for sustainable product policies.