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article imagePlastic banknotes being implemented in U.K.

By Tim Sandle     Apr 21, 2016 in Business
London - After centuries of paper-based bank notes, the U.K. will gradually introduce plastic notes. This begins in September 2016 with the £5 note. The notes are designed to be cleaner and stronger.
According to the Bank of England (which, despite its name has a U.K. wide remit over such matters), the new polymer banknotes are being introduced because they are more durable (almost three times stronger) and they will help in the battle against fraud. The polymer used is intended to be safe for the environment and it can be recycled.
The polymer banknotes will be manufactured from a transparent plastic film. The film will be coated with an ink layer that enables the note to display the printed design features of banknotes.
According to BBC News, the notes have been adopted following public consultation. Almost 13,000 people gave feedback. Here 87 percent of respondents were in favor of polymer, only 6 percent were opposed and 7 percent expressed no opinion. The main complaint from those opposed was that the notes were too slippery.
The process of implementation is gradual. Following the issuing of the £5 note (the smallest denominational note), the £10 note will be issued in 2017 and the £20 note by 2020. For the time being the relatively underused £50 note will remain unchanged. For readers in different parts of the world, £1 is equivalent to $1.43 (U.S.) and $1.82 (Canadian), as of April 21, 2016.
Each of the new polypropylene notes will be 15 percent smaller than the current paper notes. However, the general look will be the same, with a portrait of the Queen on the front and a different historical character displayed on the back. The new banknotes will also include symbols representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with appropriate images drawn from the Royal Coat of Arms and the Royal Badge of Wales.
For the first wave of notes, the polymer £5 note will feature Sir Winston Churchill (the current paper note features Elizabeth Fry) and the £10 note will feature Jane Austen (the current paper note features Charles Darwin.) The plans for the £20 have yet to be announced.
Details about the design of the note, and some new security features to prevent counterfeiting will be released on June 2. With the issue of fraud, the polymer material allows for the inclusion of ‘windows’ or clear portions in the design. This is intended to enhance protection against counterfeits.
The U.K. has lagged behind other countries in bringing polymer banknotes on line. Over 30 countries currently issue polymer notes. These nations include Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, Canada and Fiji.
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