By Fiona Harvey

Improved materials would encourage recycling and prevent single-use containers from entering the oceans and breaking into small pieces

Plastics should be better designed to encourage recycling and prevent wasteful single-use containers finding their way into our oceans, where they break up into small pieces and are swallowed by marine animals, scientists said on Thursday.

This could be as effective as a ban on microbeads, proposed by green campaigners as a way of dealing with the rising levels of microplastic waste – tiny pieces of near-indestructible plastic materials – that are harming marine life.