The holidays can be a trying time. There’s the dinner parties, and all that awkward small talk with coworkers and extended family. For those needing conversation fodder, the UK’s Royal Statistical Society is here for you with its list of the most intriguing data points of 2018.
In a sign of the times, most of the commended figures are pretty bleak. The top international stat for the year is that more than 90% of the plastic that humans have ever produced has not been recycled, according to figures cited by the organization from Science Advances. How much is that exactly? About 6,300 million metric tons, idling in landfills or dotting our natural environment. That’s an astronomical sum when you consider that plastics were only commercially available on a large scale since the 1950s.
“This statistic helps to show the scale of the challenge we all face,” said the society’s director, David Spiegelhalter, who chaired the judging panel.
The statistical society, which promotes the importance of data, launched the Statistic of the Year award last year. It highlights surprising stories, and the way numbers can illustrate them.
The awards begin with noteworthy statistics nominated by the public. A panel of judges combs through the submissions—it received more than 200 this year—before selecting an international and UK award-winning number, as well as some “highly commended” entries.
In case you need them at hand next time conversation stalls, here’s a sample:
- 40%: the percentage of Russian males who do not live to age 65—the proposed state pension age for men;
- 64,946: the number of measles cases in Europe from November 2017 to October 2018;
- 6.4%: the percentage of female executive directors within FTSE 250 companies;
- $1.3 billion: the amount wiped off Snapchat’s value within a day of one Kylie Jenner tweet.
It wasn’t all bad news. The UK stat of the year is that solar energy made up 28% of the country’s electricity at its peak on June 30. And 85% of British trains ran on time in 2018 which—if you’re at a dinner party in the UK this year—might just prove the most surprising and divisive data point on the list.