Wednesday, 11 September 2013

How do you feel about plastic money?

by Karina Shooter

Australian Plastic Banknotes Photo Courtesy of

The Bank of England has announced that plastic banknotes may be introduced in the UK from 2016. The transition would begin with the new Winston Churchill £5 note, soon followed by the new £10 featuring Jane Austen. The Bank has been looking into the possibility of plastic banknotes for the past three years, and is now going into the final stage of the procedure - a roadshow across the UK to find out public opinion on the matter. In December a final decision will be made on whether plastic notes should be introduced. 

So why the sudden change? Plastic notes are a lot more durable than their 'paper' counterparts (which are actually made of cotton pulp combined with linen and other plant fibres). A typical £5 note currently lasts just over 6 months before it is so worn and torn that it is deemed unsuitable for circulation by the Bank of England and is shredded. A polymer note will last for 2.5 times longer, which will reduce money spent on the replacement and disposal of worn banknotes. It will also be more environmentally friendly, as less notes will have to be disposed of on such a frequent basis. 

Furthermore, because of their plastic coating, polymer notes are a lot easier to clean. For example, red wine could easily be wiped off a plastic note, while it would stain a paper note. A plastic note should also be able to escape a washing machine unscathed! The only downside to the polymer note is that it would shrink under extreme heat (120 degrees Celsius) and so would not survive underneath an iron.  

Most  importantly, the Bank of England believes that plastic money would be more secure. The design allows for the inclusion of windows or clear portions in the layer of ink which covers the polypropylene film, which would be hard to fake. 

Other countries such as New Zealand, New Mexico, Singapore and Canada (home to Mark Carney, our current governor of the Bank of England) already have introduced plastic banknotes. New Zealand in particular has reported a huge fall in counterfeits after introducing plastic notes. Mauritius was the most recent country to switch, they introduced polymer notes in August. 

Despite its success in other countries, the British public still have some concerns. For example, some people are worried about the slipperiness of the notes and also the fact that they tend to bounce back when folded. 

Despite concerns, I feel that the introduction of plastic banknotes is a great idea. Despite the initial cost, the money saved because of their durability makes them more cost effective in the long run. They are also cleaner, more environmentally friendly and tackle the problem of counterfeit notes. We might not be able to fold them in our purse or accidentally put them under an iron, but I do not believe that anyone could argue that those small problems outweigh the positive benefits. 

What are your thoughts? How do you feel about the introduction of plastic banknotes?

1 comment:

  1. I'm in Canada and I don't like them at all. You can't fold them easy to put in a wallet. Assuming the one's Britain are looking at are made identical to Canada's, the heat tolerance will be a problem. I had a friend accidentally drop a cigarette on one and in the 2 seconds it was laying on it a third of the bill shriveled and burnt up (although this exact scenario is unlikely to happen to people often).
    It's a real shame, England has the most beautiful money in the world.


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