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We're getting plastic banknotes, says Bank of England

by Michelle McGagh on Dec 18, 2013 at 11:59

We're getting plastic banknotes, says Bank of England

The Bank of England is ditching traditional paper notes in favour of polymer plastic that is cleaner and harder to counterfeit.

The first batch of flexible plastic fivers will appear in 2016. They will feature Winston Churchill and be followed by polymer £10 notes, featuring author Jane Austen (see above), a year later.

The Bank has said the notes will retain their current design, which includes a portrait of the Queen and a historical character. However, they will be slightly smaller: for example, the new £5 note will be 125mm long and 65mm high, compared to the current size of 135mm by 70mm. As currently, note size will increase as the denomination rises. 

The move to polymer follows a three-year research project that looked at the different materials on which banknotes are printed. The Bank said the main reasons for replacing paper with polymer were that the latter was resistant to dirt and stayed cleaner for longer. The polymer notes will be more secure as they incorporate ‘advanced security features’ which are harder to counterfeit, and they are more durable, lasting 2.5 times longer than paper notes which will improve the quality of notes in circulation.

Additionally, polymer notes are more environmentally friendly and cheaper to print than paper notes.

The public backs the move to polymer, according to the Bank. Responses from 13,000 people across the country showed 87% were in favour, with just 6% opposed and 7% neutral.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney (pictured), said: ‘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.'

Polymer banknotes are produced from a thin, transparent and flexible film made of polypropylene. The film is coated with multiple layers of special ink to make it opaque and a portion is left clear to allow a security mark to be embedded.

This differs from the cotton paper notes the UK has at present where cotton fibres are mixed with water to produce a pulp. Colour is then placed into a mould to create a watermark and a security thread is woven in. The pulp is then treated and dried.

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