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Britain in line for rollout of plastic banknotes



The UK could see plastic banknotes in circulation as early as 2015, after the Bank of England revealed details of the process by which future money would be produced.

An article in The Telegraph last week claimed that De La Rue – the company that currently prints the bulk of Britain’s cash – might not have the lion’s share of production in 2015 when the a new contract comes in place.

Instead, polymer banknotes could be introduced as an alternative to paper, to increase the longevity of the UK’s money.

The move would see the UK follow the likes of Australia, which in 1988 became the first country to issue the plastic currency, and has since gone 100% polymer. Twenty-three other nations also use polymer banknotes, including Brunei, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Romania and Vietnam.

The imminent arrival of Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney – who is set to replace Sir Mervyn King as the governor of the Bank of England in July next year – could be a factor in the Bank’s decision to speed up the transition to more durable currency.

In November 2011, the Bank of Canada began circulating $100 polymer banknotes in an effort to combat counterfeiting and reduce costs. The country claimed its $100 bill was the world’s most advanced banknote, as it includes a hologram within the note’s transparent window and a circle of numbers that matches the value of the denomination when held up to light.

A $50 polymer denomination followed in March this year, with a $20 bill expected soon. By the end of 2013, new $10 and $5 bills will have been introduced, and all Canadian currency will be printed on polymer.

Blue & Green Tomorrow recently explored the pros and cons behind a move to polymer banknotes, which are said to be cleaner and more environmentally friendly, but come with added production costs.

A Bank of England spokesperson said that no plans had been finalised yet.

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Further reading:

The durable future of money

Making money last (literally)

Mark Carney must lead Bank of England down a sustainable path