The Bank of England’s Journey to Polymer

The Bank of England’s latest Quarterly Bulletin (October 2021) features a major article on how the bank transitioned its full series of banknotes to polymer, and CCL Secure’s role in their production.

Written by Raakhi Odedra and Stuart Cooper of the Bank’s Notes Directorate, the article describes the five-year journey to polymer. Almost 6 billion polymer banknotes have been produced for the bank during that period, largely by CCL Secure.

“We moved to polymer to make banknotes cleaner, safer and stronger,” say the authors. “Early indications are that these objectives are being met already. In particular, because the new banknotes are much more difficult to copy, counterfeiting levels have already fallen significantly.”

As other central banks have indicated recently in the Reconnaissance series of Tipping Point webinars, the move to polymer is a complex business that requires careful planning. But the rewards are worth the effort.

In the Quarterly Bulletin article, the Bank of England says that “Up to one and a half years of pre-production trials were required for each new banknote to optimise the previously agreed design for the manufacturing equipment and industrial scale production. Throughout this stage, our technical experts, the printer, and the suppliers of polymer and security features had to work together closely.”

CCL Secure’s Patrick Swift said: “The Bank of England’s approach is always thorough and sets exacting standards. With our global experience of polymer banknote technology over three decades, we’re proud to have worked so closely with the Bank of England on the polymerisation of the pound and look forward to continuing to do so.”

Production work on the polymer banknotes for England and Wales predated the launch of the first £5 note – produced entirely on CCL Secure’s GUARDIAN™ substrate – by two years, beginning in 2014.

The scale of the project was so large that CCL Secure invested over £40 million in building a new UK manufacturing plant in Wigton, Cumbria. Production of the polymer film by sister company Innovia Films is collocated on the same site, meaning that the distance the material travels from the factory to the CCL Secure production line is less than 300 metres.

The film itself – Propanote™ Clarity C – is a bank-grade polymer. This is defined by CCL Secure as a polymer that is produced exclusively for banknotes and no other purpose.

Prior to launching the first polymer £5 and £10 banknotes – again exclusively on GUARDIAN substrate – the bank’s Quarterly Bulleting article describes the detailed preparations that had to take place: “Before we start mass production, we need to know that ATMs can dispense banknotes, ticketing machines can accept the banknotes for train fares and self-service checkouts will take the banknotes as payment for groceries. And these are just some of the machines that accept, dispense, count and authenticate banknotes, all of which must be updated successfully.”

The full article can be seen on the Bank of England’s website.


Sign up to our newsletter…