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Economy
29 Dec 2019

Polymer banknote: Durable & comfortable

Arun Ranjit
Arun Ranjit
2

Each and every country has their own currency. No matter how much it worth is depend on the gold deposited in the international institution. Money has been made from a variety of materials over the years—from leather in China during the Han Dynasty, to shells, precious metals, cotton paper, and most recently, plastic.

Viewing into the historical aspect about the currency, Europe’s earliest modern paper banknotes were issued by the Bank of Stockholm in 1661. As paper quickly became the currency of choice around the world it remained so for centuries.


A ten Reais polymer Brazilian banknote released in April 2000 as a special edition commemorating the country’s 500th anniversary

But as the people of the world is advancing into the safer and hi-fy way, the countries those concerned about the environmental impact have switched to polymer notes as their currency. As countries sign on to the Paris Agreement on climate change and strive to become more sustainable, many are considering the environmental impact of their currency as well as its durability and security.

But with recent technological developments, plastic film notes offer additional security features along with longevity and energy efficiency. Move to plastic Polymer banknotes were first issued in 1988 by Australia, which now uses polymer exclusively and is about to launch a new series of notes, starting with the $5 bill in September.


A 10 Taka polymer note from Bangladesh

Polymer banknotes are that kind of banknotes made from a polymer such as bi-axially oriented polypropylene (BOPP). Such notes incorporate many security features not available to paper banknotes, including the use of metameric inks; they also last significantly longer than paper notes, resulting in a decrease in environmental impact and a reduction of production and replacement costs.

The use of the term “polymer” in place of “plastic” banknotes was introduced by Jeffrey Bentley-Johnston on 1 November 1993 with the joint study of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the University of Melbourne. They were first issued as currency in Australia in 1988 (coinciding with that country’s bicentennial year). In 1996 Australia switched completely to polymer banknotes as it has more secure and durable alternative.

In February 2002, Nepal issued a 10-rupee polymer banknote, commemorating the new King Gyanendra. But as it doesn’t suit for the country from vivid angle the country stopped and followed the paper notes as usual.

Now, the over 20 countries that have since switched completely to polymer banknotes include Australia, Canada, Fiji, Mauritius, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Vietnam, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Cape Verde, Chile, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago and the Maldives. Romania was the first European country to introduce a full set of circulating polymer banknotes.

Other countries and regions with notes printed on Guardian polymer in circulation include: Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong (for a 2-year trial), Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal (no longer issued), Solomon Islands (no longer issued), Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Zambia.


2000 lei note from Romania

In all categories and phases, polymer outperformed paper. The study found, a polymer bill promises a 32 percent reduction in global warming potential and 30 percent reduction in primary energy demand compared with paper. Most important, polymer notes last more than paper notes and weigh less. Also, their transportation and distribution are easier on the environment.

Paper bills are usually shredded and relegated to a landfill. But polymer notes taken out of circulation are shredded, converted into pellets, and used to make every day plastic items such as lawn furniture.

The Bank of England spent three years studying the potential effect of a switch from cotton and linen paper notes and concluded as well that plastic was the way to go. According to the study, “The quality of polymer notes is higher, more secure from counterfeiting, and they can be produced at lower cost to the taxpayer and the environment.”

Polymer banknotes can have three levels of security devices. Consumers can recognize primary security devices; these include intaglio,  metal strips, and the clear areas of the banknote. A machine is required to detect secondary security devices. The third level of security devices can only be detected by the issuing authority when a banknote has been returned.

Traditional printed security features applied on paper can also be applied on polymer. These features include intaglio printing, offset and letter press printing, latent images, micro-printing, and intricate background patterns. Polymer notes can be different colours on the obverse and reverse sides.


A 100 peso polymer banknote issued by the Banco de Mexico, to commemorate the centennial of the Mexican Revolution

Like paper currency, polymer banknotes can incorporate a watermark (an optically variable ‘shadow image’) in the polymer substrate. Shadow images can be created by the application of optically variable ink, enhancing its fidelity and colour shift characteristics. Security threads can also be embedded in the polymer note; they may be magnetic, fluorescent, phosphorescent micro-printed, clear text, as well as windowed. Like paper, the polymer can also be embossed.

Polymer notes also enabled new security features unavailable at the time on paper, such as transparent windows, and diffraction grating. Because the polymer bank note contains many security features that cannot be successfully reproduced by photocopying or scanning, it is very difficult to counterfeit.

Additional trial and specimen banknotes were developed for Honduras and El Salvador. Unfortunately, in tropical climates, ink did not bind well to the polymer and the notes began smearing quite badly.

Samoa, Singapore, China, Papua New Guinea, Kuwait, Indonesia, Northern Ireland, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Malaysia issued a commemorative banknote and was placed in circulation. Brazil, Mexico and Bangladesh had also issued polymer bill.

After assessing the environmental impact of producing paper and plastic bills. A life-cycle assessment examined the effect including primary energy demands and the potential for global warming of each stage of production, from growing the cotton to produce the banknote paper or producing the raw material for polymer notes through the destruction and disposal of worn notes.

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