Plastic fantastic - Britain unveils polymer banknotes

Britain has introduced its first plastic currency with a new five pound banknote entering circulation featuring World War Two leader Winston Churchill.

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Plastic fantastic - Britain unveils polymer banknotes

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Britain has issued its first banknotes made of plastic.

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"It can also survive a spin in the washing machine"

Mark Carney Bank of England Governor

The five pound note in circulation from Tuesday is printed on polymer – a thin and flexible plastic – which the UK central bank said is cleaner, less harmful to the environment and harder to forge.

The notes are much tougher than the cotton-based paper ones they are replacing. The bank said they will last more than twice as long and should even survive an accidental trip through the washing machine.

“The use of polymer means it can better withstand being repeatedly folded into wallets or scrunched up inside pockets and can also survive a spin in the washing machine”, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said.

They also have a number of additional security features.

The front of the note has a picture of World War Two leader Winston Churchill alongside one of his most famous quotes from that time: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”.

The new fivers entered circulation in England and Wales on Tuesday. Scotland has had a limited amount of its own plastic five pound notes in circulation since March 2015, with mass issuance planned for October 2016.

Plastic currency is already in use in more than 30 countries including Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia.

The fiver will be followed by a plastic 10 pound note next year and a 20 pound note in 2020.

The old five pound notes will be valid until May 2017.