Monday, March 24, 2008

Do the math

Aussie blogger Caz at Avatar Briefs spotted a wonderful example of environmentalist hyper-exaggeration and journalistic mathematical incompetence the other day: Magic plastic:
Are we really such gobemouches as to believe that Australians used 4 billion plastic bags last year? That Australians used an extra one billion plastic bags, last year - a whopping 40% increase? Or that the weight of those bags in land fills was 22 million tonnes? That’s some awfully, awfully, awfully heavy plastic we’re carrying about our persons.
As Caz points out, Australia has a population of 21 million. So every man, woman and child in the country threw out just over a tonne (ten percent heavier than our short ton) of plastic bags last year. That's a lot of bologna sandwiches.

I found an earlier article by the same reporter (who labors under the name "Ben Cubby") in which he says that total Australian bag consumption in 2005 was between 3.9 and 4.5 billion bags, and that "China, which consumes as many bags in 48 hours as Australia does in a year, announced it would be imposing a levy on bags." None of these numbers squares with one another, or, of course, with reality.

Update: "Gobemouches"?

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