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LONDON, 15 Feb 2017:
The Bank of England (BoE) today said it would keep using trace amounts of animal fat to make new plastic banknotes, as it would cost about £80 million to switch back to paper and resolve vegetarians’ and religious groups’ concerns.
More than 130,000 people signed an online petition last year calling on the BoE to stop using animal products in banknotes, after it emerged that small amounts of tallow – which comes from cows and sheep – were used in its first plastic £5 note.
The central bank said it was testing alternatives such as palm or coconut oil, and plans to delay signing contracts for its first plastic £20 note, due in 2020, until it is clear whether a fully fat-free option is viable.
Some Hindu temples and vegetarian cafes have refused the new £5 note featuring World War Two leader Winston Churchill, which the BoE says is more durable and harder to fake.
The BoE said it would be too costly and increase the risk of counterfeiting and confusion if it withdrew existing notes or abandoned plans to launch a new plastic £10 note in September, which will be made in a similar way.
“The bank has now concluded that it would be appropriate to keep the £5 polymer note in circulation and to issue the £10 note as planned.”
The central bank has spent £46 million on printing the new £5 note, and £24 million so far on getting new £10 notes ready. Printing replacement paper five pound notes – which are less durable – would cost £8-10 million.
The BoE also said it was reviewing processes linked to existing paper £20 and £50 notes, as the recycling methods used for waste paper involved trace amounts of animal products, although no residues were in the notes themselves.
If an alternative could not be found before it needed new paper for banknotes in July, the BoE said it would require that waste paper from the manufacture process was no longer recycled.