UK mulls switch to ‘cleaner and greener’ banknotes

The Bank of England is considering switching from paper to plastic banknotes, which is said to be more environmentally-friendly. Research conducted by the Bank for the last three years showed […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The Bank of England is considering switching from paper to plastic banknotes, which is said to be more environmentally-friendly.

Research conducted by the Bank for the last three years showed printing on polymer would bring more benefits compared to the cotton paper currency that have been in circulation for more than 300 years.

Polymer banknotes (pictured) are manufactured from a transparent plastic film, specially coated with an ink layer which enables it to carry the printed design features of banknotes. They are more resistant to dirt and moisture so stay cleaner for longer, more secure and can last at least two and a half times longer than paper notes, the research states. Polymer is also believed to be easily recyclable for other plastic items such as plant pots.

More than 20 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Singapore, currently issue polymer notes.

The Bank is undertaking a public consultation programme until November 15th before deciding whether to print on polymer and the final decision will be announced by the end of the year.

Charles Bean, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England said: “Polymer banknotes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. They are also cheaper and more environmentally friendly. However, the Bank of England would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in and be comfortable with our notes. The results of the consultation programme on which we are embarking will therefore form a vital part of our assessment of the merits of polymer banknotes.”

The switch to polymer could start with the new £5 note – featuring Sir Winston Churchill – followed by the £10 Jane Austen note.