Following the introduction of the new £5 polymer banknotes in 2016, there is set to be polymer £10 notes by summer 2017 and £20 notes by 2020.
The notes are manufactured using polypropylene which is a thermoplastic polymer. Its appearance is transparent plastic film which is printed on by layering ink and can also be left clear to allow for ‘windows’ in the notes.
The switch to polymer from paper was intended to improve the wear of the notes and protect against forgery. Some benefits of the updated currency are below:
The new notes are completely impermeable and non-fibrous which makes them water and dirt resistant. They can easily be wiped clean should they need it so they will stay cleaner for a lot longer than paper would.
The polymer notes will have better security features as they will be easier to verify and they will be resistant to counterfeit.
Given the properties of polymer, the new notes will be much more durable than paper which will give them a longer usage life and result in lower replacement costs and less environmental damage as the replacement will be less frequent. They will be resistant to daily wear and tear and they will have a good bounce-back after being folded. The notes can withstand temperatures up to 120 degrees Celsius so can be damaged in extreme heat conditions but overall will be strong enough for daily use in circulation.
The new notes have all been designed to be very tactile and easily used by the visually impaired. The notes increase in size with the value which allows people to determine which notes they are holding by comparing them to the size of their hands. It is also possible for the polymer banknotes to be indented, creating an easy way to distinguish between each value. £10 notes will be indented twice and the £20 notes will be indented three times. The £5 note has no raised bumps which makes it easy to establish which one that is.
More information about the switch to polymer notes can be found here.