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Bank of England mulls printing plastic banknotes

By: PLASTICS & RUBBER WEEKLY

September 11, 2013

The Bank of England has launched a public consultation to find out whether people would be ready to accept plastic banknotes.

If it gets the go-ahead the Bank will introduce polymer notes one at a time, starting with the new-style £5 note, featuring Winston Churchill, in 2016 "at the earliest". This would be followed with a new £10 note.

The Bank said after three years' of research it was confident that printing banknotes on polymer "would bring considerable benefits to both the durability and quality" of the cash in people's wallets.

Compared with cotton printed notes the Bank said polymer banknotes would stay cleaner for longer, they would possess advanced security features making them harder to counterfeit and they would be more durable, lasting at least 2.5 times longer than existing paper notes.

And having spoken to what it called "key stakeholders" including retailers, financial institutions and the cash industry the Bank said it was encouraged by what called a positive initial reaction.

But the Bank said it wanted to consult the public, an exercise that will remain open until Nov. 15. The Bank said it will announce its decision in December.

Some observers have expressed concerns that plastic notes would be difficult to fold and may not work well in existing cash point machines.

However Charles Bean, deputy governor of the Bank of England, said it would only print plastic notes if it "was persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes."

The Bank added that if it did move to polymer it would introduce smaller notes in future, since "these will be more in line with the size of those in other countries and the larger denomination banknotes will be easier to fit into purses and wallets."

The recently appointed governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, brought in polymer bank notes in his previous role as head of Canada's national bank, while Australia also has polymer notes in circulation.

Peter Davis, director-general of the British Plastics Federation, said he welcomed the move.

"We are sure the British public will like the plastic notes. After all we are already used to saying 'get out the plastic' when making a purchase.

"It's astonishing that a current fiver only lasts a year. Plastic notes, already used by Canada, are infinitely more durable and can take more sophisticated security features."

Davis said it was "essential" that any plastic banknotes were made in the UK and called for making all coins in plastics: "It will save wear and tear on our pockets."