How Guardian™ Polymer Revolutionised Banknotes Over the Last 30 Years

Have you ever used a plastic banknote?

For many young people in the “millennial” and “generation Z” brackets in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Romania, the question is have you ever used a paper banknote?

Most people who use polymer (i.e. plastic) banknotes in their day-to-day lives are unlikely to give much thought into their momentous history.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first banknote issued on polymer substrate, pioneered by the Reserve Bank of Australia and CCL Secure. This substrate, which forms the foundation of a banknote, was later branded as Guardian™ and has been adopted by central banks around the world.

The first polymer banknote was the Australian commemorative $10 which celebrated the nation’s bicentenary. It was a result of twenty years’ research into how to “build a better banknote” in order to fight counterfeiting. Featuring the world’s first transparent window and hologram on a note, it was the most secure of its time.

CCL Secure’s Vice President and Managing Director, Bernhard Imbach, said the use of polymer for banknotes provided unprecedented advantages in the currency landscape.

“What now seems normal to the more than 30 countries using banknotes on CCL Secure’s Guardian™ polymer, the security features, enhanced durability, cleanliness and potential for recycling, has really been revolutionising banknote design and manufacture over the last three decades. It’s a privilege to be part of this transformative journey alongside central banks,” said Mr Imbach.

Most recently, the Bank of England announced its plans to issue a new £50 note on Guardian™ polymer. This will be the final note in the latest series, all of which will be printed on Guardian™. 

England joins a number of other countries to announce or issue new banknotes on Guardian™ in 2018.

Central Bank of Uruguay launched its very first Guardian™ polymer banknote with a commemorative $50, crediting Guardian™’s longer note life and improved counterfeit resilience as the key reasons for the new issue.

Costa Rica announced it will change all its denominations currently printed on cotton paper to polymer substrate, while Mauritania issued its complete new series into circulation. Australia also issued its new $50 banknote, which features the innovative top-to-bottom window feature.

“Our experience in polymer is unmatched. We’ve delivered Guardian™ polymer banknotes on every continent in the world, bar Antarctica, however the waterproof nature of Guardian™ would be very effective in that climate.

“We understand what it takes to transition a banknote family effectively and with public support to maximise all the benefits, whether it’s increasing a note’s lifespan, addressing the threat of counterfeiting or securing long-term cost savings for central banks,” said Mr Imbach.

Along with security, durability and cleanliness, central banks are also considering polymer thanks to its recycling capabilities.

The Guardian™ Global Recycling Program enables central banks to recycle unfit banknotes and turn the plastic into other goods, providing an environmentally friendly solution to destroying notes that can no longer be used by the public.

Recycling initiatives help reduce a central bank’s carbon footprint and supports their Corporate Social Responsibility. The Bank of England, which recently launched the Guardian™ polymer £5 and £10 with the £20 scheduled for 2020, was recognised for exactly that.

This year, the Bank of England was awarded for Best Performance in Product Carbon Footprinting for the new £5 and £10 on Guardian™ polymer. Over their ten-year lifecycle, the £10 note’s carbon footprint is 8% lower than the previous paper version, while the £5 note’s has been reduced by 16%.

“CCL Secure was part of creating the first polymer banknote substrate all those years ago and we’ll continue to develop it long into the future. Testament to our achievements in quality and innovation is that we’ve always stayed true to our core purpose; to build a better banknote,” concluded Mr Imbach.


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