Why 90.5% has been declared the best statistic of 2018

Facts about environment, Jaffa Cakes and Kylie Jenner star in list produced by the Royal Statistical Society

Scientists have accidentally created an enzyme capable of eating plastic
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Facts about the environment, Kylie Jenner and Jaffa Cakes have been named as 2018's best statistics.

The winning international statistic of the year chosen by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) was 90.5% – the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled.

The RSS chose it to reflect growing concern around the world about levels of plastic pollution, highlighted by TV programmes such as Blue Planet II.

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Royal Statistical Society president and chairman of the judging panel Sir David Spiegelhalter said plastic waste was “a great, growing and genuinely worldwide problem”.

He added: “This statistic helps to show the scale of the challenge we all face.”

In the UK category, the top stat was 28.7% – the highest percentage of all electricity which was generated by solar power.

Solar power “became the UK's number one source of electricity – beating gas and nuclear – at one point on 30 June, during the heatwave”, reports the BBC.

“The statistics on this list capture some of the zeitgeist of 2018,” said the executive director of the Royal Statistical Society, Hetan Shah.

A panel of judges picked the two winners, along with several highly commended statistics – from more than 200 nominations.

Highly commended in the international category by the RSS was the figure of $1.3bn, the amount wiped off Snapchat’s value within a day of a tweet by Kylie Jenner critical of the platform’s redesign. The judges said that while a direct causal link could not be proven, it could be “the world’s most costly tweet”.

Dr Jen Rogers, RSS vice-president and a member of the judging panel, said the number showed “the power of celebrity” and how it was “completely at odds to using data to evidence decisions”.

“It’s a very, very up-to-date modern statistic that shows the effect social media has in this day and age,” she said, “how this one tweet can have such a big effect. It’s astonishing.”

The “quirkiest statistic to make the highly commended list”, according to The Guardian, was the 16.7% reduction in the number of Jaffa Cakes in McVitie’s Christmas tube, which Rogers said highlighted the issue of “shrinkflation”, or “not getting as much for our money”.

Other highly commended statistics included:

40%: the percentage of Russian males who do not live to age 65 – the proposed state pension age for men.

9.5%: the percentage point reduction in worldwide ‘absolute poverty’ over the last ten years – meaning that the proportion of those living in this condition has more than halved since 2008.

6.4%: the percentage of female executive directors within FTSE 250 companies.

85.9%: the proportion of British trains that ran on time – the lowest for more than a decade.

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