Polymer in your pocket?

The Bank of England has announced a public consultation programme on new banknotes: a switch from cotton to polymer.

Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Charles Bean, 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 Bank highlights qualities of the proposed notes. They will: -

  • Be made from a transparent plastic film, coated with an ink layer which can hold the designs on current notes.
  • Allow for the inclusion of a transparent window in the design which would boost protection against forgeries.
  • Last at least two-and-a-half times longer than paper banknotes. The environmental burden of note production would, the Bank says, be ameliorated. Polymer banknotes in Australia are recycled into plant pots.
  • Be, relative to current sizes, smaller, with the consumers wallet or purse in mind.

The Churchill £5 banknote would be introduced first, in 2016 at the earliest, with later denominations following.

36 independent focus groups have already been held to gauge public views on polymer banknotes, which are already in use in Canada. About three-quarters of participants were positive about the proposed notes, with the remaining quarter not feeling strongly either way. Further market research continues to be carried out.

The Bank's cost benefits analysis has shown savings made when using polymer notes, over a ten-year period, will exceed £100 million.