Remember when the derogatory word of the sixties was “plastic”? To say something was plastic signified it was fake or not quite what it pretended to be.
Well, Great Britain is now all set to embrace plastic money. And though it will cost more to produce and be more slippery (insert joke here) the money should last longer, be water proof, and of course, be considerably easier to clean.
Charlie Bean, deputy governor, said: “Polymer banknotes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. They are also cheaper and more environmentally friendly. However, the Bank 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.”
The Bank said it has been researching potential materials for the past three years. When it put its printing contract out to tender last year, bidders were told they would need to be able to use a variety of materials.
Britain’s De La Rue currently has the contract, but rival bidders are thought to include Munich-based printing giant Giesecke & Devrient; Landqart – the bank note division of Canadian wallpaper and pulp company Fortress Paper; Note Printing Australia, a division of the Reserve Bank of Australia; UK-based Innovia Film’s subsidiary Securency; and France’s Oberthur.
Bidders have to demonstrate that they can print 500m notes a year at a single site, and will need back-up premises. Last year, the Bank produced 1.3bn new notes and notes in circulation were worth £58bn. Some 845m notes were destroyed.
However, for all the virtues of plastic, there remains the feeling that it is “slippery” in more ways than one, and not quite the thing.
The UK has toyed with the idea in the past. A plastic £5 note was launched in Northern Ireland to mark the millennium but it did not catch on.
Mark Carney, the Bank’s Governor, introduced polymer notes to Canada in 2011 when he was Bank of Canada Governor. Canadians were not immediately smitten, as they found the notes hard to separate and preferred their “folding stuff” to fold.
Still and all, apparently New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, Canada and Mauritius have made the switch to plastic. I wonder if we’re next. Though for an adequate representation of our money’s value we’d need something less durable than plastic. Kleenex. Or perhaps hot air.
Image Courtesy Shutterstock.com, © t.peter photodesign-tp de