This year’s Statistics of the Year announcement has a distinctly environmental theme as statistics relating to plastic waste and the use of solar energy emerged as the winners of this year’s International and UK categories respectively.

The commended entries cover a plethora of other issues, from the reduction in global ‘absolute poverty’ to the number of Jaffa cakes present in its Christmas tube - illustrating the phenomenon of ‘shrinkflation’.

The winning International Statistic of 2018 is 90.5%: the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled. Estimated at 6,300 million metric tonnes, it’s thought that around 12% of all plastic waste has been incinerated, with roughly 79% accumulating in either landfill or the natural environment (as sourced from Production, Use, and Fate of all plastics ever made by R Geyer, J R Jambeck and K Lavender Law).

‘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.’

The winner of the UK Statistic of 2018 is 27.8%: the peak percentage of all electricity produced in the UK due to solar power on 30 June this year. This surprising figure reflects that fact that solar power was, while only briefly, the country’s number one electricity source - ahead of gas (sourced from Electric Insights).

Former National Statistician, Dame Jil Matheson, who was also on the SOTY judging panel, called the stat ‘a very welcome figure’. ‘2018 was a landmark year for solar-generated electricity in the UK - as well as for renewable energy more generally,’ she added.

‘The statistics on this list capture some of the zeitgeist of 2018,’ says RSS executive director Hetan Shah. ‘We were delighted with the quality and quantity of this year’s nominations - with well over 200 received.’

Now in its second year, the Statistics of the Year aim to show the sometimes surprising stories that numbers can tell us about the world. As well as David Spiegelhalter and Jil Matheson, other judges on the panel include BBC home affairs editor Mark Easton and Guardian US data editor Mona Chalabi.

A number of surprising statistics were selected as ‘highly commended’; those under the International category are as follows:

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. (sourced from the World Bank in 2018 and 2008).

64,946: the number of measles cases in Europe from November 2017 to October 2018 (sourced from the World Health Organization).

40%: the percentage of Russian males who do not live to age 65 – the proposed state pension age for men (sourced from the Times, Independent, Guardian and the World Health Organization).

$1.3 billion: the amount wiped off Snapchat’s value within a day of one Kylie Jenner tweet (sourced from Reuters, CNBC, Business Insider and the Guardian).

The UK ‘highly commended’ statistics for 2018 are:

6.4%: the percentage of female executive directors within FTSE 250 companies (sourced from Cranfield’s The Female FTSE Board Report 2018).

85.9%: the proportion of British trains that ran on time - the lowest for more than a decade (sourced from Passenger and Freight Rail Performance 2018-19 Q2 Statistical Release, Office of Road and Rail).

82%: the percentage of all GB retail shopping that is still in-store rather than online (sourced from Comparing “bricks and mortar” store sales with online retail sales: August 2018, Office for National Statistics).

16.7%: the percentage reduction in the number of Jaffa cakes in McVities’ Christmas tube, thus illustrating the concept of ‘shrinkflation’ (as reported in The Sun and Metro).

Further details on each statistic can be found in our press release.

Read a Chinese translation of our Statistics of the Year news release.