Bank of England rebuffs calls for changes to its polymer notes

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The new Bank of England 10 bank note, printed on polymer film, will be released in September

On Aug. 10, the London-based financial institution said it will stick with the existing polymer film blend for its new plastic banknotes, rejecting calls from some vegetarians in the United Kingdom to turn away from a film that uses a very small amount of material from rendered animal fat.

"The new polymer £20 note and the future print runs of the £5 and £10 notes will continue to be made from polymer manufactured using trace amounts of chemicals, typically less than 0.005 percent, ultimately derived from animal products," the Bank noted in a news release.

The Bank of England released its first polymer notes, a £5 note, in 2016 and by the end of November it was already facing calls for changing the material by vegetarians, vegans and animal lovers to cut the fat.

The next polymer note, the £10, features the writer Jane Austen on one side, along with security features such as 3D holograms, to make it harder to forge. The film also stands up better to wear and tear ... and accidental trips through the laundry.

The negative publicity from the animal content prompted the Bank to put plans for the £20 on hold until it could further study alternatives.

The Bank also took note of public comment. Of the 3,554 people who responded between March 30 and May 12, 86 percent were opposed to the animal-derived additives, while 48 percent opposed the use of a palm oil replacement.

Part of the problem, the Bank noted in its news release, is that palm oil also has its negative connotations in terms of sustainable harvesting.

 "The Bank's suppliers have been unable to commit to sourcing the highest level of sustainable palm oil at this time."

And then there was the matter of cost.

Switching to a non-animal-based film would cost an additional £16.5 million ($21.4 million) over the next 10 years.

The security and longevity of polymer-based note still make them worth adopting, and more environmentally friendly over their lifecycle, the news release added.

CCL Secure, formerly Innovia Security, makes the notes.


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