Photo by James Wakibia

The University’s plastic policy experts are attending the fourth intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC-4) meeting in Ottawa, Canada from 23-29th April.

2 minutes

What is the Global Plastics Treaty?

Plastic pollution is a global, transboundary problem requiring urgent coordinated policy action on all levels, from local to international. For this reason, 175 nations endorsed a landmark resolution at the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in March 2022, to develop an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution — commonly referred to as the ‘Global Plastics Treaty’. By the end of 2024 the world can expect to see how the Treaty will transform the way we produce, use and dispose of plastics.


How will nations agree on new international law on plastics?

The process to agree the Treaty includes five Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees (INCs) – forums where national delegates debate the content of the Treaty; and where industry representatives, NGOs, campaign groups and scientists meet to exchange knowledge and information. 

It's a lengthy, detailed process where nations discuss and agree on the details of the Treaty, which might include bans of single-use plastic products, restrictions on environmentally damaging plastic polymers and chemicals, and new requirements for product design and waste management. 

The penultimate round of negotiations (INC-4) takes place in Ottawa, Canada this week. 


Why is the university attending the UN negotiations?

The Revolution Plastics’ Global Plastics Policy Centre (GPPC) team has worked closely with negotiators and governments to provide evidence-based research to help guide the Treaty process over the last two years. Our researchers have worked with DEFRA, UNEP, World Bank, World Economic Forum, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and Break Free From Plastic. 

The University of Portsmouth is able to send a delegation from the Revolution Plastics Institute to the INC meetings as an accredited observer. The University is one of 18 universities from around the world that has been accredited with this status — and one of only 5 in the UK. The team has attended every INC meeting so far and has a detailed knowledge of the Treaty challenges and progress. 


Resources to inform the Global Plastics Treaty

Ahead of INC-4, the University's Global Plastics Policy Centre, in collaboration with Common Seas, published a policy brief report, Delivering an effective Global Plastics Treaty through coordinated national action, which identifies the essential components of successful National Plans to tackle plastic pollution.

The Global Plastics Policy Centre’s website is a valuable one-stop-shop for anybody interested in plastics policy. It provides a central point for information, effectiveness and barriers to plastics policy success, with resources, case studies and videos to showcase effective practice. 

The GPPC website includes:

  • Our latest Treaty research outputs, including policy briefs and other publications
  • 87 Treaty-relevant resources: reports, scientific articles, and policy briefs 
  • PhD student Sam Winton’s blogs from INC-3, which outline where the Treaty has got to so far

The Portsmouth team attending INC-4 includes:

Professor Steve Fletcher, Director of the Revolution Plastics Institute, is one of the top five most-cited researchers in the blue economy field. He has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and research reports, including for the UN, World Bank, and G20, as well as governments and international NGOs. Steve is a member of the UN International Resource Panel and has worked extensively with the UN family of ocean and biodiversity conventions.

Antaya March, Research Lead of the Global Plastics Policy Centre, designed the world’s first harmonised plastics policy evaluation tool and consults regularly for a number of international agencies and governments on plastics policy and issues around resource management. She feeds in directly to the Treaty negotiations process by providing bespoke evidence-based guidance to governments. 

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Deputy Director of the Revolution Plastics Institute is an Associate Professor in Arts and Sustainability. Cressida’s areas of expertise are action research and creative, participatory methods to address global health and sustainability issues, including plastic waste and air pollution.

Dr Erika Hughes is a theatre director and academic working in applied theatre, history, environmental justice. Erika was co-director of a powerful piece of legislative theatre delivered to policymakers at the beginning INC-3 in Nairobi, which invited delegates to experience the everyday life of waste pickers.

Dr Keiron Roberts is a researcher and senior lecturer with expertise in plastic policy, waste and resource management and the circular economy. Keiron coordinated a marine plastic litter think piece for the G20 and UNEP IRP, and the UN's first Compass Report on policies to eliminate plastic pollution.

Sam Winton is a postgraduate researcher examining the Global Plastics Treaty process. Sam has expertise in plastics policy and sustainable development and has worked for the Revolution Plastics Institute since its inception in 2020.


Find further details about our research team from the Revolution Plastics Institute.