The Reserve Bank of Australia, which has replaced the country's paper currency with plastic bank notes and established a growing export business in Asia, now has set its sights on creating a plastic note for the U.S. dollar and the planned single European currency.
Australia introduced a plastic $5 note in 1991, followed by $10, $20 and $50 notes. The transition from paper currency was completed in May 1996 with the introduction of a plastic $100 note.
The polypropylene notes are produced by RBA's manufacturing subsidiary Note Printing Australia of Melbourne, which sources film from Brussels, Belgium-based flexible plastics company UCB SA.
Note Printing Australia and UCB recently established a joint venture, Securency Pty. Ltd. in Melbourne, to market plastic bank notes and the technology worldwide.
Robert Larkin, Note Printing Australia managing director, said Securency saw ``the whole international arena as a possible market'' for its plastic notes.
He said the U.S. Federal Reserve has expressed interest in testing a plastic $1 note and negotiations are continuing.
Although the European Union, which will introduce a single currency in 1999, chose a paper note, it ``may consider polymer in future rounds of design,'' Larkin said.
He said PP notes last four times longer than paper, are cleaner, more cost-effective and more secure.
Note Printing Australia produces 300 million plastic notes annually, about half for the Australian market and half for exports, predominately to Asia.
Larkin said Note Printing used to supply about 500 million paper notes annually to Australia's Reserve Bank, but quantities have dropped since the changeover to plastic because of the product's durability. However, the drop in Australian demand allowed Note Printing to focus on export markets, which now include Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Papua New Guinea. He said the joint venture with UCB signaled a ``harder push into exports.''
Note Printing now sources PP film from UCB's European plants, but, as part of the Securency joint venture, UCB will build a new A$50 million (US$38.2 million) specialty film plant next to the Note Printing factory in Melbourne.
The plant, scheduled to open in July 1998, will supply PP film to Securency and flexible packaging clients throughout the Asia Pacific region.
Larkin said the joint venture will improve supply arrangements and put more focus on research and development programs. Securency will market ``ready-for-press'' bank note films to central banks and note printers throughout the world.
The films have see-through security features, and surface coatings to prevent sticking and slipperiness.
Larkin said Securency is keen to negotiate technology transfers with overseas central banks.