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Polymer banknotes | Bank of England

Composition of polymer banknotes

We recognise the concerns raised about the discovery of traces of tallow used in the production of our polymer 5 notes. We were not aware of the presence of animal-derived products when we signed the contract with our supplier for the 5 and 10 banknote polymer. When we discovered the presence of these products, our first step was to alert the public. Subsequently, we have been taking the concerns raised by members of the public with the utmost seriousness.

On 30 November 2016, we made an initial statement.

In February 2017, we announced that the current polymer 5 note would remain in circulationand the new 10 note, due to be issued in September 2017, would be printed on the same polymer material. This was accompanied by an assessment of how we came to this decision.

We also announced that a full public consultation would be held from 30 March 2017 on the new polymer 20 and future print runs of polymer 5 and 10 notes. The public consultation ran from 30 March 2017 to 12 May 2017. This was accompanied by a consultation document and an independent report on the environmental impact of a range of additives from a consultancy firm, Efeca. We also undertook a programme of outreach meetings with representatives of potentially impacted groups.

On 10 August 2017, we announced that there would be no change to the composition of the polymerused for future notes. The new 20 note and future print runs of the polymer 5 and 10 will continue to be made from polymer manufactured using trace amounts, typically less than 0.05%, of chemicals ultimately derived from animal products.

Our decision reflected multiple considerations, including the concerns raised by the public, the availability of environmentally sustainable alternatives, positions of other central banks and value for money, as well as the widespread use of animal-derived additives in everyday products, including alternative payment methods. In reaching our decision, we also took account of our obligations under the Equality Act 2010. We also published a document providing more detail on the decision.

In October 2018 we announced that a new 50 would be issued after the 20 note and that this note would also be printed on polymer. Following discussion with suppliers, we have not identified any changes to the availability or cost of alternative polymer substrates which would alter the conclusion reached in August 2017. The Bank therefore currently anticipates that the composition of the polymer substrate for 50 will be the same as for the 20. Consistent with the Banks obligations under the Equality Act 2010, particularly the Public Sector Equality Duty, the Bank will however engage with those organisations which were involved in its outreach programme in 2017 before it makes a final decision. Members of the public may also express any views by sending them to enquiries@bankofengland.co.uk.

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