Britain’s New Bank Notes: Secure. Durable. Not for Vegetarians.


Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, with the new 10-pound note in July. The central bank has decided that its new notes will continue to use a polymer that has trace amounts of animal products.

Steve Parsons/Press Association, via Associated Press

LONDON — Britain’s new bank notes are harder to forge than their predecessors. They are also more durable, able to survive a washing machine cycle. They can even be dipped in curry with no adverse effects.

None of that is much consolation to vegetarians, however — the notes are printed on polymer, which uses tallow, a hard, fatty substance usually made from rendered meat, rather than on the cotton-based paper that was used before.

On Thursday, the Bank of England, which prints bills circulated in England and Wales, said that it would continue to use the polymer for the 5-pound note, worth about $6.50, introduced last year, as well as the £10 bill that debuts in September and the £20 note that will enter circulation by 2020.

“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,” the Bank of England said in a news release.

The bank said it had not taken the decision lightly.

It said it had chosen the polymer notes for their durability and for their ability to incorporate new security features, adding that they were better for the environment than the traditional cotton-based paper notes. After the polymer notes’ debut last year, the Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, dipped one of them in a curry to demonstrate their durability.

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