Sorry, vegetarians: Animal-fat banknotes are here to stay—at least for now

The Bank of England recently announced it will continue using trace amounts of animal fat in the production of its polymer banknotes, claiming it would cost about £80 million to revert back to paper money.

On Nov. 28, in a tweet to British vegan Steffi Rox, the U.K.’s central bank confirmed “there is a trace of tallow in the polymer pellets used in the base substrate of the polymer £5 notes.” And it’s true: the notes contain trace amounts of tallow, which is a hard, fatty substance made from animal fat.

This polymer, which is found in virtually all of the plastic currency around the world, is produced by an Australian company, Innovia Security. Its substrate is used for the polymer currency of 24 countries, including Canada.

A representative of the Bank of Canada has since confirmed all of Canada’s polymer bills contained “literally minute” amounts of tallow.

FAR-REACHING PETITION

Since the discovery late last year, more than 130,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Bank of England to stop using animal products in its banknotes.

On Feb. 15, the central bank said it would test alternatives such as palm and coconut oil. There are plans to delay signing contracts for its first plastic £20 note, which is slated to enter circulation in 2020, until the bank can determine whether a polymer banknote without animal fat is viable.

“Given the public interest in banknotes, and the complex issues involved, the Bank is seeking further opinions on the use of animal-derived products and plant-based alternatives before making any decisions on the polymer used in future production runs of £5 and £10 polymer notes and the new £20 polymer note,” reads a statement issued by the bank last month. “The new £20 polymer note is due to be issued by 2020 and production has not yet begun. It is necessary, however, to secure the supply of banknote materials several years before that issuance. The Bank has delayed the signing of the relevant contracts for supply of materials for the £20 polymer until we have decided the best way forward weighing all the considerations.”

A public consultation about the polymer substrate used for the Bank of England’s future banknotes will be launched on March 30.

For more information about the bank’s polymer assessment, click here.

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