Victoria Cleland provides details on polymer banknotes

Victoria, first, can you tell us what you
mean by polymer banknotes? So, polymer banknotes are used in over 20
different countries at the moment. Polymer is a material, what we call a “substrate”,
that the notes are printed on and it starts life as a very thin film. Then that’s opacified
by putting ink on it, usually a white ink, and it’s using that ink that we can create
what we call the “windows”. So in a polymer banknote, you’ll quite often see a clear space
with a window. So that’s the clear film coming through and
this is the ink around it. So a polymer banknote is just a banknote made on a different type
of substance to the cotton paper that people are used to. And what’s the advantage of having the clear
area, the window? We see it as a very important security feature.
So there’s the window that you can actually hold up and people can look through it. Also,
it’s a useful way of putting extra security features on top of the window and they can
show through on to both sides. So it’s a good anti counterfeit feature. Can you give me a bit more detail about the
key properties of polymer and what it is that makes it a good substrate for banknotes? So one of the key things we look for in a
banknote is counterfeit resilience and with polymer, you can put a lot of very sophisticated
security features on it. There’s the clear window, which I showed you a little earlier,
where you can actually look through it. But, also, with polymer, it’s a very strong substance
so it’s very durable. This means that it lasts longer, which has benefits in terms of the
costs/benefits over its entire life. It also means that it lasts a lot better in, sort
of, every day use. So, for example, if a polymer note is accidently
put in the washing machine, it will stay in a lot better condition than a paper one would.
Now, I’m not saying it’s completely indestructible, but in terms of day-to-day wear and tear,
the polymer notes will last a lot longer. So this is a traditional paper note that’s
been through the washing machine. As you can see, it’s become very faded and the hologram
is incredibly difficult to use. The polymer note, there are some slight creases in it
but no fading and the hologram is still working very well. These two notes were put in the
same washing machine at the same time, and that’s the difference. I understand that the Bank’s conducting a
public consultation program about polymer banknotes. What will people be able to see
if they com e and find you at one of your regional events? One of the things that we’re really keen to
do is to show people actual polymer notes. It’s very difficult to explain, even on broadcasts
like this, what exactly a polymer note feels like. So we’ve actually made some Bank of
England notes in polymer using the current design.
For example, I’ve got one here with Elizabeth Fry on. So the design stayed the same but
it’s on polymer so it will give people a chance to feel the notes. They’ll be able to see
the windows but without being distracted by different pictures or characters and things,
and they’ll begin to see that actually you can have a polymer that looks very similar
to the current ones using historical characters. So we’ll show people that we can also have
the raised print, which we know that people say is an important feature. So it’s really
to help people understand what polymer notes would feel like.
And I think one thing that surprises some people is how flexible polymer is. They think:
Oh, plastic banknotes, are they going to be thick? But, no, they’re actually very flexible,
easily fit into wallets and fold up. And where might people have seen or heard
about polymer banknotes before? So at the moment, there are over 20 different
countries that have polymer banknotes. I think they’ve been in Australia since about 1988.
They were recently introduced in Canada, also Singapore, Mexico, Romania. So quite a lot
of people either on work, travel, or holiday might well have used polymer notes. What about the environmental impact of polymer
banknotes? Is it different from paper? We actually commissioned an independent study
to look at the environmental impacts. We know that a lot of people are concerned about the
environment so we wanted to make sure that even if we were going with something that
we thought was good in terms of counterfeit resilience, cleanliness, durability, there
weren’t any adverse effects on the environment. The independent study that looked at the whole,
sort of, life cycle assessment of polymer, say, from the production right through to
destruction found that actually polymer banknotes were more environmentally friendly than paper
in pretty much every stage of the process.

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