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Plastic banknotes could replace paper from 2016

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There's nothing quite like riffling a fat stack of fresh twenties (or so we are told, never having experienced it). It's a pleasure that may be denied the high-rollers of the future though, as plastic banknotes supercede paper money.

The Bank of England is developing plans to introduce wipe-clean polymer banknotes by 2015 to replace the cotton paper notes. They are cleaner, less easy to counterfeit and are even washable. Some world currencies already use plastic notes.

The Bank is looking to make its notes more durable. At present the average five pound note only lasts about a year (cue obvious jokes about it only lasting about five minutes down the pub). After the initial costs of printing the polymer notes, they would prove more economical in the long run.

The plastics used would also be recyclable. After several years in circulation the notes would be sent off to recycling plants (presumably with heightened levels of security) where they could be transformed into other plastic products.

The main concern of the Bank is the public reaction. There will be a touring roadshow with examples of the new notes, to gauge reaction to the idea. The deputy governor Charles Bean said the response at the 50 public events would decide whether the Bank pressed on with its plans. "The Bank of England 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," he said.

The Governor, Mark Carney, was previously in charge of the central bank in Canada, where polymer notes are now in circulation. Public reaction there was mainly positive, although faintly surreal, as people insisted that the new bank notes smelled of maple, the national symbol. The Canadian bank insisted that the notes were not scented.

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