Meet Britain’s new five pound note. It was introduced back in September by the Bank of England. It is supposed to be stronger, safer, and better for the environment because it is made out of polymer and not paper.
2. Britain Is Fading Out Paper Money With Plastic Notes
The new note has a completely different feel to it. You can see the sheen on it. This is actually a pretty monumental change for Britain. The day the note was released in September, it marked the end of a 320-year-old system of using paper notes in England.
3. The New Note Is Meant To Be More Durable And Secure
Because the bill is made of thin plastic, it is much more durable than paper. You can’t crumple it up very easily. These new notes last 2.5 times as long as the paper notes. Over 21,835 notes had to be replaced last year, so this is meant to curb those numbers. About 5,364 of those notes were chewed or eaten.
The note also has new security features which make it more difficult to produce counterfeit notes. One of those features is a large, see-through window with a metallic image of a gold Elizabeth tower on the front, and a silver one on the back. There is also a hologram that changes from “five” to “pounds” when tilted. You can see all of the security features in this video.
4. The New Note Will Also Feature Winston Churchill
The new note will continue featuring the Queen Elizabeth II of England, but will also feature Sir Winston Churchill. On their website the Bank of England said that, “Like Churchill, the new polymer will also stand the test of time.”
The new five pound bills are also supposed to be better for the environment. You don’t have to cut down any trees for them. Also, because they are more durable, the Bank of England can print less of them, “Which means less energy is used in manufacturing and cash transportation.” When the note is no longer useable, it will be recycled into new plastic products. There’s an entire 133 page paper on the environmental impacts of the new polymer note, in case you want to read it.
However, while the new polymer notes may be more energy efficient, thousands of British vegans and vegetarians are protesting the new note because of one of its material components.
6. Thousands of Vegans And Vegetarians Are Protesting The New Note
Tallow is a substance rendered from the fat that surrounds a cow’s organs. Tallow is a source of stearic acid. Stearic acid is a slip agent, which is essentially grease. It is used to keep objects in the production process from sticking together. It helps keep the bills slightly lubricated. The company that makes the new note, Innovia, said that the trace amounts of tallow give the bill anti-static and anti-slip properties.
The most common uses of tallow are in soaps and candles. However, tallow is found in trace elements in many everyday objects such as plastic bags, make up, crayons, tires and cellophane wrapping. It is likely that the people protesting this new note use a product containing tallow daily without realizing it.
The new note also presents a problem for British Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Hindus and Jains consider the cow a sacred animal. And many practicing Sikhs are vegetarians. Some Hindu temples in Britain have already banned the use of the new note in their facilities.
There is already a petition on Change.org that has over 130,000 signatures.
Vegetable-based tallow can be rendered from coconut or palm oil, which can create a vegetarian based substitute for stearic acid. However, the process is more expensive than using animal-based tallow. Also, having to stop production of the new note to switch to a new additive will be very pricey.
11. Some People Think The Protests Are Stupid
"I almost (but don't really) understand why some Brits are upset about the (almost undetectable amounts of) beef tallow in the new £5 note, but feel that this headline/meme sums up the relative issues :-) #plasticbanknote #fivepoundnote #firstworldproblems," said one Instagram user.
The inventor of the note, Professor David Solomon from Australia, also thinks the uproar from the vegetarians is “stupid.”
"We are aware of some people’s concerns about traces of tallow in our new five pound note. We respect those concerns and are treating them with the utmost seriousness. This issue has only just come to light, and the Bank did not know about it when the contract was signed.”
If the Bank of England continues making the notes with tallow, or even if they come up with a plant-based alternative solution to stearic acid (and there are alternatives), England is still moving into a paperless money system. They already have set dates for other paper notes to transition into plastic. The 10-pound note will be issued this summer, and the 20-pound polymer note will be issued in 2020. You will not be able to use the paper five-pound note as legal tender by May!
If you think about it, that’s kind of crazy. Paper money was used in England for 320 years, and this marks a huge change. If you can no longer use the paper notes as legal tender, they will become relics. If other countries follow suit, it would mean the end of paper money all together. Paper money has been around since the 7th century, and 2016 might mark the beginning of its eradication.