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Bank of England is trying out plastic banknotes - could it happen in Ireland?

Spoiler alert: Not in the near future, at least.

Image: Photocall Ireland

IRELAND AND OTHER Eurozone countries look unlikely to follow in the footsteps of the Bank of England by introducing plastic banknotes, the European Central Bank has confirmed.

A switch from paper notes to polymer ones is on the cards in England and Wales after a three-year study found the new notes last longer, are cleaner and more difficult to counterfeit.

However, a spokesperson for the ECB said that although plastic notes were recently considered for the euro notes, cotton paper was seen as the best material for security reasons, and because Europeans have grown used to how the notes feel.

“We looked at all options when, quite a few years ago already, we had to take a decision on the material to use for banknotes,” the spokesperson told TheJournal.ie in relation to the new €5 note unveiled at the start of this year. “The outcome of that analysis was that cotton paper is the best material for euro banknotes”.

He cited security and cost aspects as the main considerations behind the decision.

Polymer bank notes last around 2.5 times longer than paper notes, but are also twice as expensive to produce. A change would also mean that all sorts of banknote handling machines would have to be updated, further adding to the cost.

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Instead, the ECB decided to go  for the best of both worlds.

“Considering all options, we decided to use cotton/paper with a coating, which increases the life cycle of a banknote by 50 per cent but which is only marginally more expensive,” the spokesperson said.

The new plastic notes notes, which are made of polymer, are slightly slippier and more bendy than existing notes but still easy to fold. The Bank of England is rolling out a consultation  process at the moment to take the public temperature on the new notes, and has said that if there is public opposition, it will back down on using them.

Read: Bank of England to consider plastic banknotes… Should Euro be next? >

Read: ‘Don’t be involved in crime’ say gardaí about stolen banknotes >

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Christine Bohan

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