We're working with city governments on innovations to prevent plastic pollution, reduce waste, and grow jobs.
Existing efforts to achieve Zero Waste have focused on developing community-based infrastructure for managing waste including community gardens, local processors, waste reduction efforts and successful recycling initiatives. As recycling streams have evolved, existing approaches have been unable to keep pace with the increasing amount of plastics use and resulting litter, disposal and recycling costs.
A 2013 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that the costs to address litter and plastic pollution in California’s environment were nearly $500 million dollars each year. Current policy responses have focused on efforts such as plastic bag bans, compostability standards, and mandatory recycling. Even with the expansion of these efforts, business as usual scenarios estimate a four-fold increase in the use of plastics by 2050, with roughly half of all plastic being produced for single-use disposable applications.
Cities face escalating costs of managing plastic waste, with nearly a third of plastic packaging escaping existing collection systems. The rapid growth of plastic packaging waste far outstrips local government’s ability to impact upstream design change and invest in post-consumer infrastructure necessary to collect and recycle or dispose of plastics to prevent their release into the environment. UPSTREAM supports cities in quantifying the impacts, and developing and implementing plastic pollution action plans to reduce pollution, boost recycling and grow jobs.