The Bank of England has confirmed that it will not be reformulating the polymer used for its new banknotes, despite protests about the use of trace amounts of animal derivative.
The Bank ran a public consultation project following the outcry earlier this year after it emerged that the polymer substrate used for the new £5, made by CCL Secure (formerly Innovia Films), contained tiny amounts of tallow. This resulted in protests from vegans, vegetarians and religious groups.
A petition set up by vegan Doug Maw calling for the polymer to be changed eventually gained 137,251 signatories, yet despite this there were just 3,554 responses to the BoE consultation. However, 88% of 3,430 respondents to a specific question about animal-derived additives were against their use.
As part of the process the Bank also considered using chemicals derived from palm oil as a substitute, but this was rejected on the grounds of environmental sustainability, and cost.
The trace amount of chemicals in the polymer that is derived from animal products is “typically less than 0.05%".
In a statement explaining the outcome, the BoE said: “This decision reflects multiple considerations including the concerns raised by the public, the availability of environmentally sustainable alternatives, positions of our Central Bank peers, value for money, as well as the widespread use of animal-derived additives in everyday products, including alternative payment methods. In reaching its decision, the Bank has also taken account of its obligations under the Equality Act 2010.”
The alternative payment methods cited were debit and credit cards, and mobile phones.
The Bank said that switching to palm oil products would also have resulted in increased costs for the tax payer, potentially leading to a 5% rise in the annual costs of banknote printing. “Value for money was also a consideration in the Bank’s decision. The estimated extra cost of switching has increased since the consultation and is now estimated to be around £16.5m over the next ten years.”
Maw tweeted that he now planned to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Bank said that it had also considered the actions of the other 30 or so Central Banks around the world that issue polymer banknotes “all of which contain the same animal-derived additives”.
“The Bank is not aware that any other central bank which issues polymer banknotes has run a public consultation or gone as far as the Bank in any investigation and trialling of alternatives,” it stated.
The design of the new polymer £10 note featuring author Jane Austen was unveiled last month. It will go into circulation on 14 September and some 3bn polymer £10 notes will have been printed by 2026.
A number of special security features on the note have also been revealed (see below).
The new £10 note - key security features
The results of the tender for the polymer £20 have not yet been announced. Mass production will begin next year, ahead of the note being issued in 2020.
The £20 is the most popular note in circulation, and the BoE expects to print circa 5bn of the polymer version over the next ten years. There are just under 2.2bn paper £20 notes currently in circulation.