The special polymer used in plastic banknotes is much stronger than paper notes. In fact, when the Bank of England was thinking of switching to polymer, they commissioned research [1] which showed that a polymer banknote will be in circulation from 3.8 to 6 times longer than paper. Indeed there are many examples where polymer banknotes last much longer than this.  Here are some other reasons why plastic beats paper when it comes to strength and durability:


The greater durability of plastic banknotes means that, over time, the cost of producing currency is reduced. In its first 25 years of using plastic banknotes, the Reserve Bank of Australia [2] said “the switch to polymer has resulted in net savings of close to $1 billion over the past 25 years in inflation-adjusted terms.”

Resistance to wear and tear
Life’s tough when you’re a banknote, constantly being handed around, stuffed into wallets and piled into cash drawers. Polymer stands up to this treatment much better than paper. Analysis of destruction rates for notes issued by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, nearly 70% of the paper version of the $5 note had to be destroyed each year because they were unfit for use. This compares to 15% with polymer, as detailed in Specimen Magazine[3]. The Bank of England’s figures are equally impressive [4]. Just 3% of polymer banknotes needed replacing in 2019, compared to 60% of paper notes in a comparable year (2015).

Keeping their shape for longer
Over time, paper notes become floppy and lose their integrity[5]. They become easier to tear and damage. This is because the cotton used in ‘paper’ notes is a comparatively loose woven structure compared to polymer. The structure of the polymer substrate is more uniform and solid, so that the note retains its structural integrity and shape over time, without becoming floppy.

Because polymer banknotes are non-absorbent and non-fibrous, they repel dirt and moisture. So, they stay cleaner for longer than paper banknotes. As the Bank of England[6]  found when they were researching polymer banknotes, this means they don’t get as ‘tatty’ as paper notes and can stay in use for much longer.


[1] Bank of England, 2013, Polymer Banknotes: Durable and Clean, Pg. 1
[2] Reserve Bank of Australia, 12th December 2019, A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Polymer Banknotes, [online], Available at: https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/bulletin/2019/dec/a-cost-benefit-analysis-of-polymer-banknotes.html
[3] CCL Secure, Specimen Magazine, 20 years of Guardian polymer in New Zealand, [online], Available at: https://www.cclsecure.com/uploads/pdfs/Specimen_issue_9.pdf, Pp 22-23
[4] Bank of England, December 2019, Questions on damaged polymer and paper £10 and £5 Bank of England banknotes, [online], Available at: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/freedom-of-information/2019/questions-on-damaged-polymer-and-paper-10-and-5-bank-of-england-banknotes
[5] Banco de Espana, Billetaria, April 2009, Australia’s experience with polymer banknotes, Pg. 9
[6] Bank of England, 2013, LCA of Paper and Polymer Bank Notes: Final Study Report? [online], Available at: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/banknotes/polymer/lca-of-paper-and-polymer-bank-notes.pdf

Want to know more about plastic banknotes?



Banknotes that last longer, take more wear and tear and cost taxpayers less to make.


Advanced security features make counterfeiting plastic banknotes virtually impossible.


A smoother surface means less dirt, bacteria and viruses.


Made from materials that can be recycled to reduce environmental impact.