Kiwi Polemicist

January 17, 2009

“Food police” on the streets of England (Part 2)

The average human has one breast and one testicle.

Des McHale

In my earlier post I told you about the “food police” who are on the streets of England telling people what meal sizes they should prepare and how to reduce food wastage. This act of totalitarianism is perpetrated by a state-funded company called WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). In their publications CRAP WRAP trumpets a number of statistics. These are from the Impact Review (PDF 283kb) for 2006-08 :

  1. 2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases saved each year
  2. 4.8 million tonnes less waste going to landfill each year
  3. 1.5 million households now committed to reducing their household waste
  4. 3.9 million more committed recyclers
  5. 10% growth in the recycling sector
  6. New build for the 2012 London Olympics to contain at least 20% recycled content

As the quote at the top of this post shows, statistics can be numerically correct nonsense. Also, as I read the Impact Review I was concerned to see that there were no footnotes to back up the figures; however on p15 an Evaluation Methodology Statement (PDF 1443kb, EMS henceforth) was mentioned as the source for the statistics. In my humble opinion this is a shonky methodology designed to encourage people to accept the figures without question.

So, lets have a look at how WRAP arrives at two of its statistics in the list above:

Statistic #4 3.9 million more committed recyclers

Page 49 of the EMS says that the target was

A further substantial increase in the level of public
commitment to recycling, delivering at least four million
additional ‘committed recyclers’ representing a further
10% of the adult population
[in 2006-08].

Page 49 of the EMS says that

The target will be measured through a national tracking survey. A nationally representative sample of households in England will be surveyed periodically (at least six times over the two-year
business planning cycle). The survey will measure the public’s
commitment to recycling through the ‘committed recycler’
measure. A person is currently classified as a ‘committed recycler’ if they state that:

* They believe that recycling household waste is very or
fairly important to them; AND
* They recycle even if it requires additional effort; AND
* They recycle ‘everything’ or ‘a lot but not everything that
can be recycled’.

I can’t find the raw survey data so there’s no way of evaluating the survey methodology. However, we can that the definition of “committed recycler” is very broad. If I make an “additional effort” to recycle by thrice annually putting a newspaper into a recycling bin rather than a rubbish bin then I’m a committed recycler. It’s easy to hit a target the size of a small building when you’re shooting from five paces.

Statistic #3 1.5 million households now committed to reducing their household waste

This isn’t even mentioned in the EMS, but it is mentioned in a press release:

Since the launch of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in 2007, research shows that 1.8 million more UK households are now taking steps to cut back on the amount of food they throw away…

and the footnote says…

The impact of the campaign to date is calculated using data from WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste “Tracker” research from the last 12 months, in conjunction with data from The Food We Waste report (http://www.wrap.org.uk/retail/case_studies_research/report_the_food_we.html). Other behavioural insights and statistics are taken from the most recent wave of Tracker research (September 2008).

The trail ends there, because I cannot find any further explanation of this statistic. It is impossible to prove a negative, i.e. “the data is not readily available to the public”, but it is reasonable to assume that WRAP is keeping the data behind this claim well wrapped up (sorry). I also believe that this statistic has about as much substance as a sheet of unbleached toilet paper.

***

The EMS puts several goals in the “Behavioral Change” category, which is a refreshing piece of honesty from the Green Police. Never forget that the state wants to modify your behaviour to its own ends.

What do you think about the statistical methodology of WRAP?



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2 Comments »

  1. […] • “Food police” on the streets of England (Part 2) […]

    Pingback by Sue Kendgely can’t force people to live healthy lives « Kiwi Polemicist — April 4, 2009 @ 2:05 am

  2. […] “Food police” on the streets of England (Part 2) […]

    Pingback by School Food Trust wants to change the diet of a nation « Kiwi Polemicist — July 12, 2009 @ 2:11 pm


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