The Bank of England have recently announced that they are ready to switch from cotton paper banknotes to plastic, matching other currencies across the world. The switch could start with the new £5 note, featuring Sir Winston Churchill, with the £10 note to follow.
Why the switch?
- Polymer notes are harder to counterfeit
- Polymer notes are more durable and resistant to damage
- Polymer notes are environmentally friendly
- Polymer notes repel dirt
Polymer banknotes were first introduced in Australia as a more durable alternative to paper, the banknotes are made from a polymer such as biaxially orientated polypropylene (BOPP). The BOPP substrate is processed through the following steps:
- Opacifying – two layers of ink (usually white) are applied to each side of the note, except for an area(s) deliberately left clear;
- Sheeting – the substrate is cut into sheets suitable for the printing press;
- Printing – traditional offset, intaglio and letterpress printing processes are used; and
- Overcoating – notes are coated with a protective varnish.
Compared to paper banknotes, banknotes made using BOPP are harder to tear, more resistant to folding, more resistant to soil, waterproof (and washing machine proof), easier to machine process, and are shreddable and recyclable.