Do you remember how strange it felt to hold your first polymer £5 note when they were released back in 2016?
Billed as the most durable banknotes yet, the new polymer notes replaced the old paper versions with a thin and flexible plastic material which was said to be cleaner, safer and stronger.
And whilst it’s claimed they should last 2.5 times the lifespan of paper notes, it seems they might not be as durable as once thought…
It’s now been four years since the £5 notes were released, three years since the £10 notes were released and we’re just over a month away from the release of the new polymer £20 note.
Whilst we’re all really excited for the upcoming release of the new £20 note featuring JMW Turner, the question remains as to how durable this note will really be.
50 million damaged polymer banknotes replaced
Recent figures suggest that almost 50 million polymer £5 and £10 notes have been forced to be replaced due to the wear and tear sustained since they were released into circulation.
The Bank of England have said that the damage was mainly caused by “folds, tears, holes and foil wear”.
Figures from the Press Association news agency, say that roughly 20 million polymer £5 notes and around 26 million £10 notes have been swapped so far due to damage.
However, the Bank has never said the new notes are indestructible, instead claiming that they should last 2.5 times longer than paper notes, which were lasting an average of just two years in circulation.
The number of polymer banknotes being replaced only represents a small percentage of the total number which are circulating and the Bank suggests that this is in line with their expectations.
“While we expect the polymer notes to have a longer life, it is too early in the note’s lifecycle to yet understand the rate of replacement of polymer notes,” they said.
“The use of polymer means it can better withstand being repeatedly folded into wallets or scrunched up inside pockets, and can also survive a spin in the washing machine.”
In 2015, 21,835 paper banknotes were replaced due to damage from being torn, washed, contaminated, damaged and even chewed and eaten!
The new polymer material is resistant to dirt and moisture which means they will stay in a better condition for longer.
Plus, when a polymer note reaches the end of its life, it will be recycled, meaning the new notes are more environmentally friendly.
New polymer notes to be released
The new £20 note is due to enter circulation on 20 February 2020 and initially the note will be in circulation alongside the existing paper £20 notes.
These will eventually be phased out as we have seen with the paper £5 and £10 notes in the past years.
We are also expecting the new £50 polymer banknote featuring mathematician and second world war codebreaker Alan Turing in 2021.
Are you looking forward to seeing the new polymer notes, and have you experienced any damage to your £5 and £10 polymer notes? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re interested in coin collecting, our Change Checker web app is completely free to use and allows users to:
– Find and identify the coins in their pocket
– Collect and track the coins they have
– Swap their spare coins with other Change Checkers
Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app