This week, Canada was introduced a new $100 polymer banknote marking the first time polymer has been used for a banknote series in the country. The switch from a cotton-paper blend to the plastic substrate hybrid is a change many countries have made since 1988 because these types of banknotes contain many advantages.
A big selling point for polymer is increased durability. According to the Bank of Canada, the new polymer banknotes will last 2.5 times longer than its cotton-paper counterparts. That means the life span of a $20 bill – Canada’s most widely circulated denomination – is expected to reach at least seven years.
Being more durable means reducing costs. The less currency a central bank has to produce to replace damaged bills, the less they have to spend in the long run.
Using plastic bills also ensure a certain degree of environmental responsibility as well according to Stane Straus, a polymer researcher.
“Many of these [paper notes] are actually made of cotton – US paper bills cotton are 75% cotton, which takes large amounts of pesticides and water to produce,” he told BBC News.
In contrast to paper notes, plastic notes are recyclable at the end of their lifetime.
Due to their plastic make-up, polymer banknotes remain cleaner and last longer in the face of hot temperatures. For this reason, they are often produced in countries with hot climates.
“The tropical climate is a challenging environment for banknotes, especially because of high humidity and high temperatures,” Straus said. “This causes paper notes to absorb moisture, thus becoming dirty and limp quickly. Polymer notes, on the other hand, do not absorb moisture. You could say that polymer notes beat paper notes in terms of cleanliness and durability in all climates, but this particular advantage of polymer notes stands out even more in tropical climates.”
Of course, the main advantage of polymer banknotes is security. Polymer notes are considered by the industry to me more secure therefore less likely to be counterfeited.
Canada’s new $100 contains several state of the art security features such as raised ink, a large transparent window that also contains a colour-shifting metallic portrait, hidden numbers in the transparent window that match the note’s denomination, transparent text, a frosted maple leaf window that also contains hidden numbers, among others.