Bank of England to launch consultation on polymer notes

The Bank of England will launch a full consultation on 30 March about the content of polymer substrate to be used in future banknotes. 

While it is working with suppliers to determine alternatives, the bank said it would continue to keep the £5 polymer note in circulation and to issue the £10 polymer note as planned in September.

Last year, it was revealed that the new notes contained a small amount of tallow, which is produced using animal fats. This caused contempt among many animal rights activists. Although the bank claimed it was unaware of the animal fat content, it said it recognised concerns.

In a statement, the Bank of England said: “Producing banknotes is complicated. A variety of processes are required to manufacture a secure note of the highest quality, and the lead times involved are therefore significant. Production of the new £10 polymer note began last August and the Bank has already printed 275 million notes, at a cost of £24 million, ahead of planned insurance later this year. The bank has also spent £46m on printing the £5 polymer note. Reprinting these notes on a new substrate would mean incurring these costs again. It would also require a further £50,000 for the secure destruction of the existing stock.”

To destroy the hundreds and millions of notes already printed would put people at financial risk, as the bank could not guarantee sufficient stocks of paper notes to replace the polymer ones. “Delaying the insurance of the polymer £10 would also delay the benefits of the increased counterfeit resilience of the polymer ones being achieved for the bank and the public.”

Further opinions are being sought on plant-based alternatives before any decisions are made in future productions of the new pound notes, including the £20 polymer note due to be issued in 2020, for which production has not yet begun.
However, securing the materials must be done several years in advance. The bank has delayed signing relevant contracts for the supply of the £20 note until a decision has been made.

“The bank will therefore launch a full consultation on 30 March about the content of polymer substrate to be used in its future banknotes,” said the statement. “The consultation paper will set out the key issues and invite views from the public. This will allow the bank to understand better the range of public opinion on this issue and inform its future decision-making.”

The consultation has been priased by The Vegan Society. Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for the group commented: "While it is unfortunate that the new £10 note will contain tallow, The Vegan Society is pleased that the Bank of England has been transparent in their response to this important issue, and has taken the beliefs of the public into consideration. We have met with the Bank of England and believe they are committed to solving this problem and we will continue to work with them to find a good solution.

"We look forward to the consultation around the £20 note and hope that any future bank notes will be free from ingredients produced through harming animals. We hope that other companies will follow this positive example and review the use of animals in their products."

A summary of responses from the consultation is intended for publication in the summer, complete with a conclusion and proposals for the future content of polymer substrate.

Following the discovery of tallow in polymer notes, the bank asked its supplier of cotton paper money to review its production process. While it did identify one ingredient used in the recycling of off-cut material outside the primary manufacturing process, which included a trace amount of animal-derived ingredients, it established that this ingredient was wholly consumed in the secondary production process and that no trace was detected in the finished banknote paper.

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