Environmental Quality Protection, Beautification


There's a better way than throw-away.

aka UPSTREAM Policy Institute, Inc.

Damariscotta, ME


UPSTREAM sparks solutions to plastic pollution and our throw-away society through innovation, policy, and culture change. During COVID, UPSTREAM is helping businesses, communities, and individuals spark solutions to put people back to work, save businesses money, protect public health and solve plastic pollution at the same time.

Notes from the Nonprofit

UPSTREAM is helping businesses, communities, and individuals spark solutions to put people back to work, save businesses money, protect public health and solve plastic pollution at the same time. We work on PREVENTING plastic pollution and other waste. For those who want to make plastic pollution a thing of the past, consider our innovative solutions leveraging the public, private and non-profit sectors to tackle these problems with systemic, long-term answers.

Ruling Year


CEO & Imagineer

Matt Prindiville

Main Address

PO Box 1352

Damariscotta, ME 04543 USA

Formerly Known As

Product Policy Institute


plastic pollution, environment, business innovation, policy, job and business creation, local infrastructure and supply chains, culture change, indisposable, podcast, economically viability, job creation, sustainable business models, climate change, innovation, innovative disruptions





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Management & Technical Assistance (C02)

Management & Technical Assistance (S02)

Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (W99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Social Media


Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

In the past few years, public concern around plastic pollution has grown to an all-time high. A recent nationwide survey showed ⅔ of Americans are very concerned about plastic in the environment. In addition, cities are under great pressure because cheap plastics - once an income source - are now a crippling expense due to China rejecting our recyclables. But there is a lot of confusion around what is actually going to solve plastic pollution. Is it more recycling? Bioplastics? Compostable packaging? What’s the role of reusables? What’s cost-effective? Which strategies don’t exacerbate climate change? And now, what is safe? The bottom line is that any product designed to be used for a matter of minutes and then thrown away is not a sustainable or safe option, regardless of whether it’s made from plastic, paper, metal or plants. The real culprit isn’t just single-use plastics - it’s “single-use” itself.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

6 7 8 9 11 12

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Business Innovation


Culture Change


Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

The result of coronavirus cannot be to open the floodgates for more single-use plastic pollution. Single-use disposable products come with extraordinary costs. Pre-COVID, take the fast-casual dining experience, where you sat down at a restaurant for a meal, but you ended up throwing a pile of garbage away when you were done. Or how about when you sat down at a coffee shop, and even though they had real mugs behind the counter, everyone was drinking out of throw-away cups with plastic lids? Or what about all the disposable stuff at events, concerts, and large-scale venues? And as was the case before COVID and is the case now, when you order take-out food to your home or office, they throw in plastic cutlery and napkins and all this stuff you don’t actually need, not to mention the bags and single-use containers that come as a matter of course. In the midst of the pandemic, we’re already seeing a massive increase in waste from the overwhelming demand for take-out food delivery. Yet there is a better way than throw-away. Imagine if all sit-down dining was done on real and reusable plates, cups and cutlery. Imagine venues transforming the way they serve their customers. Imagine reusable to-go cup services for coffee in every cafe so customers wouldn’t have to remember their reusable mug. Imagine if right now, we had safe, reusable food delivery systems with local supply chains. All over the world, businesses, institutions and communities had begun saying no to disposable packaging and creating reuse systems that are convenient, sustainable and more fun than the old throw-away model. We have hundreds of case studies showing that reuse - rather than single-use - is better for the environment and saves businesses money. Post-pandemic, cost savings and local jobs will be especially important for food service and cities. And though we don’t know when this reopening will occur, we are working with partners on innovations to help these services launch in an economically viable and sustainable way – with a community of support behind them.

This year, the world has changed completely. Our thoughts are with everyone who is suffering and concerned for their loved ones and livelihoods. We acknowledge the major threats and challenges ahead. But we also see that some of the old broken systems are down, potentially providing space for new systems to emerge and scale both during and following the crisis. We know the solutions we are promoting can help foster local economic rejuvenation that will be necessary for communities to recover. But there are threats that need our attention as well. The plastics industry is aggressively exploiting the crisis in an attempt to roll back our movement’s progress over the past decade and prevent future gains. Our team is working hard to not only protect the important victories of the past, but also to ensure cost-effective, safe reuse systems are an integral part of the recovery. How we’re meeting the moment and adding value right now: Prioritizing thought leadership, message development, network convening, and bridge building within the plastic pollution movement. Leveraging our national network of NGOs, local government, businesses and community leaders to reframe the industry narrative as an underhanded, opportunistic play to exploit the crisis for profit over people. The result of coronavirus cannot be to open the floodgates for more single-use plastic pollution. Promoting a narrative around strategies that can help put people back to work, save businesses money, protect health and solve plastic pollution at the same time. Adding value to our audiences and constituencies in ways that serve them and address their primary concerns now. Celebrating what’s working today.

UPSTREAM is comprised of a skilled and innovative and coordinated team working remotely across the country. Our team includes recognized national leaders in plastic pollution solutions, innovative policy and innovation including decades of experience from the public, private and non-profit sectors. Matt Prindiville is a recognized thought leader within the plastic pollution community and advises the United Nations Environment Program on their plastic pollution strategies. He is one of the founders of the global Break Free from Plastic Movement and the founder of the Cradle2 Coalition and Make It Take It Campaign. Matt has written for the Guardian, GreenBiz, and Sustainable Brands among other publications. He’s been featured in the Economist, the New York Times, on NPR’s 1A, Jack Johnson’s Smog of the Sea film, and consulted with 60 Minutes on their plastic pollution special. Samantha Sommer brings close to 15 years of zero waste industry experience specializing in source reduction, business innovation, and culture change. Before joining the UPSTREAM family, Samantha directed the award-winning ReThink Disposable campaign for the national non-profits Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund. She oversaw the certification of hundreds of food service operations transitioning from single use to reusable food ware with measurable source reduction impacts. When she isn’t working, Sam enjoys every chance she can get with water, mountains, and trees to find balance. Miriam Gordon was the California Director of Clean Water Action between 2008 and 2016, where she launched ReThink Disposable, a program that helps food service operations move to throw-away-free. She was a leading advocate helping the Clean Seas Coalition secure 150 local bag bans and 100 foam bans, and helped ban micro-beads in personal care products and secure the statewide bag ban victory in California. She leads UPSTREAM's Policy work. We know the plastic pollution space, and we know how to effectively lead in it. ‍We helped create #BreakFreeFromPlastic - an international movement of more than 1600 NGOs - working together to solve plastic pollution. We built a network of local government leaders throughout the US and Canada to work for sustainable policy. We helped the Urban Sustainability Directors Network develop its first plastic pollution project. We formally advise the UN’s Environment Program on plastics-related strategies. We sparked the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) movement in the US, leading to the passage of more than 100 laws now on the books. Our team speaks to large audiences around the world. We've brought together thousands of business, non-profit and government leaders to solve big problems, and we know its going to take all of us to build something better. For us, the future is real, reusable, and throw-away-free.

Obviously reaching and/or exceeding our three-year objectives is key to measuring our success. But because we are working to seed and cede this movement across the country, there are additional ways to measure our success. The quality and popularity of our storytelling and social campaigns will show our level of success for our Social Marketing Objective. We are targeting our social marketing campaigns to the communities where we are actively building the reuse industry - primarily San Francisco, New York City and Boston. When we see others - influencers, businesses, community and business leaders - mimicking our message that there’s a better way than throw-away, we will have succeeded. When we see our view, click and share numbers more than double, we will have achieved success. Our ability to raise an increasingly diversified source of funds through new and increased funding streams while hiring and retaining quality staff and contractors is a clear measure of organizational success.

Just over one year ago, we knew we were being ambitious when we launched our new projects and a three-year strategic plan for transformative impact across the country. The response was greater than we could ever have imagined. Businesses, communities, schools and individuals proved they were ready for real, meaningful solutions. Post-pandemic, we know cities, restaurants, and venues will want an economic recovery that puts people back to work, saves businesses money, protects public health and solves plastic pollution at the same time.

External Reviews




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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2015
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

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Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? This organization has voluntarily shared information to answer this important question and to support sector-wide learning. GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


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Race & Ethnicity

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Gender Identity

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Sexual Orientation

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Equity Strategies

Last updated: 01/02/2020

Policies and practices developed in partnership with Equity in the Center, a project that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems within the social sector to increase racial equity. Learn more

Policies and processes

We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.