Plastic banknotes could be ready for 2016 says Bank of England

The Bank of England could say goodbye to tatty tenners and frayed fivers by issuing plastic bank notes within the next three years.

It says polymer notes are cleaner, more secure and – because they last more than twice as long – are £10million a year cheaper than the cotton paper currently used.

The idea is just a proposal but if the plan goes ahead, new-style £5 and £10 notes  could start to replace paper currency for the first time in the Bank’s 300-year history.

The new notes would  probably also be smaller, in line with other countries, with the £10 reducing in size to become slightly larger than euro notes.

The Bank of England plans to ask the public what they think of the notes by showing them off at 50 events around the UK.

But focus groups have already raised concerns about the notes being slippery and possibly sticking together, and complained they will not fold as easily as paper.

Retailers, banks and the cash industry have also been asked for their views.

But a study by the Royal National Institute for the Blind found a 50/50 split on preference for paper or polymer, with most saying they could get used to the plastic.

Under the proposals, only the new-style £5 note featuring Winston Churchill and £10 note depicting Jane Austen will initially be printed on the synthetic material.

New Bank governor Mark Carney introduced plastic notes two years ago in Canada while in charge of its central bank.

A final decision will be announced in December this year.

Charlie Bean, deputy governor of the Bank, said: ‘Polymer banknotes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. ‘They are also cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

‘However, the Bank of England would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes.’

Polymer bank notes are made from a transparent plastic film, coated with an ink layer which enables them to carry printed design features. The Bank said they can also incorporate raised print.

More than 20 countries currently issue polymer bank notes, including Australia, which began printing them in 1988, as well as New Zealand, Mexico and Singapore.

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