First-Ever Polymer £20 Notes Enter Circulation

The new £20 note issued on UK-manufactured Guardian polymer substrate has been released into circulation by the Bank of England for the first time today.

The new notes have been hailed “cleanersafer, stronger and greener”; why? The answer lies in the substrate, the majority of which is supplied by CCL Secure in Wigton, Cumbria.

The substrate is an opacified transparent film containing integrated security features, which acts like the base for inks and additional features to be printed on top. For the £20, these include two windows and a two-colour foil.

Vice President and Managing Director of CCL Secure, Neil Sanders, said the company is looking forward to seeing the British public enjoy the benefits of the new note.

“It’s a triumph for British manufacturing that a substrate, produced on these shores, will deliver a safer, stronger and more environmentally friendly banknote for the British people.” he said.

“This is tangible reward for CCL Industries continued investment in the country; CCL Secure and Innovia Films (also owned by CCL Industries) produce both the Guardian banknote substrate and the unique base polypropylene film Propanote™ Clarity C. Both are manufactured by a highly skilled workforce in Cumbria England, a region we are proud to be located in.  As a further sign of our contribution to the region we have set up the CCL Secure Fund with the Cumbria Community Foundation to support local groups, individuals and businesses.

“It’s fitting that a banknote featuring a pioneering artist like J.M.W Turner is characterised by innovative design and security features.

“CCL Secure has been working closely with the Bank of England for over ten years, developing the full substrate design of the £5 and £10 notes as well as being the exclusive substrate supplier for both these denominations.  We’re pleased to have added the £20 and look forward to seeing a full family on polymer when the £50 is released.”

Central banks around the world and banknote industry suppliers are continuously looking at ways to reduce the carbon footprint of bank notes, and Mr Sanders says polymer notes have been a game changer.

“Polymer notes are more environmentally sustainable with the £5 and £10 recognised by the Carbon Trust’s Footprint Label for having a lower carbon footprint over the notes’ life,” he said.

“Central banks are increasingly looking to reduce their carbon footprints and polymer banknotes are one way of achieving this.

“CCL Secure is always looking at ways of becoming greener as a business and we recently implemented an ambitious sustainability strategy.” 

When the £50 enters circulation next year, the Bank of England will join other countries around the world including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Costa Rica, Mauritania, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Romania with a full family on polymer.

Sanders said this will likely bring a further reduction to the UK’s counterfeiting rates.

“Guardian polymer notes have brought about significant reductions in counterfeiting in every country they’ve been introduced. We’re confident this trend will continue in the UK as the £20 and £50 notes enter circulation,” he said.

Recent figures released by the Bank of England have shown Guardian banknotes to be significantly more durable than their paper counterparts. Under 3% of the polymer £5 notes in circulation were replaced in 2019 (to end September), compared to around 60% of the paper £5 series V notes in 2015 (the last full calendar year before the polymer £5 was issued). Under 2% of the polymer £10 notes in circulation were replaced in 2019 (to end September), compared to around 53% of the paper £10 series V notes in 2016 (the last full calendar year before the polymer £10 was issued).

Features of the new £20 note include:

  • A large see-through window with a blue and gold foil on the front depicting Margate lighthouse and Turner Contemporary. The foil is silver on the back. The shape of the large window is based on the shape of the fountains in Trafalgar Square.
  • A smaller see-through window in the bottom corner of the note, inspired by Tintern Abbey.
  • JMW Turner’s self-portrait, painted c. 1799 and currently on display in Tate Britain.
  • One of Turner’s most eminent paintings The Fighting Temeraire; a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire which played a distinguished role in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The painting is currently on display in the National Gallery and was voted the nation’s favourite painting in a 2005 poll run by BBC Radio 4.
  • A metallic hologram which changes between the word ‘Twenty’ and ‘Pounds’ when the note is tilted.
  • The Queen’s portrait in the see-through window with ‘£20 Bank of England’ printed twice around the edge.
  • A silver foil patch with a 3D image of the coronation crown.
  • A purple foil patch containing the letter ‘T’ and based on the staircase at the Tate Britain.
  • Turner’s signature from his Will, the document with which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation.


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