Mankind has output an estimated 6,300 million metric tonnes of plastic, and very little of that has been recycled — 90.5% of it was either burned or accumulated in dumps or in the oceans. That is the year’s winning statistic, according to UK’s Royal Statistic Society (RSS).

‘It’s very concerning that such a large proportion of plastic waste has never been recycled’, says RSS President, Sir David Spiegelhalter, who chaired the Stats of the Year judging panel. ‘This statistic helps to show the scale of the challenge we all face. It has rightly been named the RSS’s ‘International Statistic of the Year’ for 2018.’

Image in public domain.

Every year, the RSS publishes what it considers to be the most “zeitgeist” statistics of the year — the most relevant and important figures. They feature vital aspects of the time (such as plastic recycling), as well as more offbeat topics, like Kylie Jenner (who slashed $1.3 billion from Snapchat’s value with a single Tweet). Dr. Jen Rogers, RSS vice-president and a member of the judging panel, said the number showed “the power of celebrity”, and it could be the “world’s most costly Tweet”. Jenner tried to mend things later by saying that Snapchat is still her “first love”, but the damage had already been done.

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Another quirky statistic has to do with Jaffa Cakes. According to Rogers, there was a 16.7% reduction in the number of Jaffa cakes in McVities’ Christmas tube, illustrating the concept of ‘shrinkflation’ (as reported in The Sun and Metro).

The top UK statistic was 28.7%: the peak percentage of all electricity produced in the UK due to solar power on 30 June this year. Although briefly, solar energy was the country’s main electricity provider, the first time since the Industrial Revolution. This year also marked a period of 55 hours when the UK ran without coal.

“It’s a reflection of what are the important things facing us as a population. We are becoming more and more aware of these issues surrounding us like climate change, the relationship we have with the environment, the things we can do to help the environment,” Rogers commented.

Here are a few of the other statistics mentioned by the RSS:

  • 9.5%: the percentage point reduction in worldwide ‘absolute poverty’ over the last ten years. Extreme poverty has halved since 2008;
  • 64,946: the number of measles cases in Europe from November 2017 to October 2018. Measles has made an unlikely comeback, in part due to the decrease in vaccinations;
  • 6.4%: the percentage of female executive directors within FTSE 250 companies (in the UK).
  • 85.9%: the proportion of British trains that ran on time.