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Environmental issues dominate UK statistics of the year

Embargoed to 0001 Monday October 29 Undated handout photo issued by Everyday Plastic of plastic salad and vegetable bags collected by Daniel Webb, who stored all the plastic waste he threw in the bin for a year, collecting up a total of 4,490 individual pieces of plastic. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday October 29, 2018. A report from the campaign group suggests that people in the UK throw away around 295 billion pieces of plastic every year, much of which is single-use and cannot be recycled. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Plastic . Photo credit should read: Ollie Harrop/Everyday Plastic/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

By Ian Jones, Press Association

Plastic pollution, rail delays and the number of Jaffa Cakes in a festive tube have all been named among 2018's statistics of the year.

The list, compiled by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) from nominations by the public, is intended to highlight some of the biggest trends and news stories of the past 12 months.

International statistic of the year is 90.5% - the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled, according to a United Nations report.

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.

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."

UK statistic of the year is 28.7%. This was the peak proportion of electricity produced by solar power on June 30 - enough to make it briefly the country's number one electricity source.

Dame Jil Matheson, another of the judges, said: "2018 was a landmark year for solar-generated electricity in the UK, as well as for renewable energy more generally.

"In the current climate, in particular, we should commend this highly successful example of public policy-making."

A less positive statistic to make the winners' list is 85.9%.

This was the proportion of trains on Britain's railways to meet their punctuality target between October 2017 and September 2018 - the worst performance by the rail industry since 2005-06.

McVities' Jaffa Cakes make the list due to the drop of 16.7% in the size of its festive tube, from 48 cakes to 40 - an example of "shrinkflation", when manufacturers reduce the size of their product but not the prices they charge.

The RSS acknowledged McVities now calls the product a "cracker" rather than a "yard" of Jaffa cakes but noted criticism of the boxes' content-free sections, which can make the reduction in the number of cakes less immediately obvious to shoppers.

Other statistics on the winners' list include:

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

- 9.5: the drop in percentage points from 2008 to 2018 in the proportion of the world's population living in absolute poverty

- 1.3 billion US dollars: the amount wiped off Snapchat's value within a day of Kylie Jenner tweeting: "Does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me ... ugh this is so sad."

RSS executive director Hetan Shah said: "We were delighted with the quality and quantity of this year's nominations, with well over 200 received.

"The statistics on this list capture some of the zeitgeist of 2018. Hearteningly, the world is getting better when it comes to poverty, even though it's often hard to notice.

"And renewable energy in the UK is really taking off. But there are plenty of issues left to tackle.

"Statistics help us make sense of the world around us and these numbers tell us how the world continued to change in 2018."

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