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Plastic banknotes set to be launched

Plastic banknotes set to be launched

Category: Money

Updated: 19/12/2013
First Published: 18/12/2013

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

The Bank of England (BoE) has just announced plans to print plastic banknotes from 2016, following a three-year research programme and a public consultation which was launched in September.

Currently, the notes in issue are printed on cotton paper, but a new batch of £5 and £10 notes will be printed on polymer – a thin plastic film – and will be slightly smaller than those already in circulation.

The new polymer notes will retain the same familiar look with the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen and the historical figure remaining unchanged. The first £5 notes are set to feature Winston Churchill and will be issued in 2016, due to be followed a year later by £10 notes featuring Jane Austen.

The decision has been reached following years of research into the materials used to produce banknotes, with the reasons for switching to polymer including:

  • It's more hygienic, with polymer being more resistant to dirt and moisture so notes will remain cleaner for longer.
  • It's durable, with polymer banknotes expected to last 2.5 times longer than their cotton counterparts. It'll take longer for them to become tatty and will therefore improve the quality of notes in circulation.
  • Polymer banknotes will be more secure, with enhanced security features set to be incorporated to make them harder to counterfeit.
  • They'll also be smaller, which will make them easier to fit into wallets, and will bring them in line with currencies of other countries.
  • They're more environmentally friendly and, because they last longer, are cheaper.

However, even though the BoE identified these benefits, the bank said it wouldn't print notes on polymer unless the public approved. The public consultation was therefore vital, and with support being overwhelmingly positive – some 13,000 individuals gave feedback, with 87% of those being in favour of polymer and just 6% opposed – it was decided that the new plans could go ahead.

Mark Carney, governor of the BoE, commented on the announcement: "Ensuring trust and confidence in money is at the heart of what central banks do. Polymer notes are the next step in the evolution of banknote design to meet that objective."

The polymer notes will be in circulation as of 2016, and prior to that a communication programme will be launched to alert people to the new notes and provide details of how current incarnations will be removed from circulation.

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