Massey researcher at the centre of efforts to solidify global plastics treaty

Monday 13 May 2024

Professor Trisia Farrelly has been busy with her work aimed at reducing plastic pollution, publishing articles and attending events across the world that aim to encourage governments to take a hard stance on the issue.

Professor Farrelly (standing, far right) facilitating the Scientists’ Coalition morning meeting at INC-4 in Ottawa, Canada.

One aspect of this work saw Honorary Research Fellow Professor Trisia Farrelly as one of three signatories on a letter to United States President Biden that calls for independent scientific evidence to inform his country’s position on a United Nations treaty to end plastic pollution.

The letter is authored by the Scientists’ Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty, on which Professor Farrelly serves as Coordinator. The letter thanks the President for taking a stand on plastic pollution but calls for any future commitments or actions to be linked to independent research in order to ensure accurate, evidence-based decision making.

The letter to President Biden was sent ahead of the latest round of Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee(INC-4) talks in Ottawa, Canada, which Professor Farrelly has just returned from. In 2022, a mandate to establish a legally-binding treaty was signed by more than 170 world leaders. The INC event in Canada was held to further negotiate what the future treaty would include.

Professor Farrelly says progress on what the treaty might contain was held up.

“Effective global plastics treaty negotiations were once again delayed and derailed by member states with vested interests in fossil fuel and petrochemical proliferation who shed doubt on independent scientific consensus including the known health impacts of plastic chemicals, and nano- and microplastics.

“Consequently, INC-4 closed with an agreement to form two expert groups whose outputs will be considered at INC-5 in Busan, South Korea in November this year.  The Scientists’ Coalition was disappointed that the work of the expert groups will exclude plastic reduction targets and instead focus on mid- and downstream measures.”  

Professor Farrelly was part of the group of 60 scientists representing the Scientists’ Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty at INC-4. The Coalition exists to provide INC delegations with independent scientific expertise and support in an accessible form.

The Coalition also aims to empower the voice of civil society stakeholders, including waste pickers and informal waste workers, frontline and fenceline communities  and Indigenous knowledge and rights holders by providing timely and relevant trusted/independent evidence.

The group of 60 scientists representing the Scientists’ Coalition at INC-4.

Alongside her international travels, Professor Farrelly has continued to be involved in research projects.

A recently-published article she co-authored detailed research into common brands that are found on items polluting the environment. The article suggests that brand names could be used to hold plastic companies accountable and that phasing out single-use and short-lived plastic products by the largest polluters would greatly reduce global plastic pollution.

She has also been involved in the penning of various written works, such as one published in Cambridge Prisms on the urgent need to reduce plastic production and a letter in Science about why a plastics treaty needs trusted science behind it.

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