Why aren't all banknotes made of plastic?

I was reading this article about great Australian inventions.

One of them is “plastic banknotes”. It says

My question is, if they’re so great, last long, and are hard to forge, then why aren’t we all using them?

New ideas are scary.

Because change makes people angry.

That is really the main reason. If the US was run more rationally we would have gotten rid of the penny, nickle and probably dime by now. They are worth less than the 1/2 cent at the time we got rid of the 1/2 cent. We keep them around because getting rid of them makes people angry.

There wasn’t much anger in Australia at the change. Of course, they’d been softened up about 30 years earlier when their LSD was taken away from them and replaced with a dismal guernsey.

It’s an enormously expensive job to switch over, and central banks tend to be fairly conservative institutions. The problems are magnified if there are large amounts of banknotes circulating overseas.

Here in NZ we completed the switch over back in 2000 and I don’t think anyone would seriously consider switching back.

So you support offshoring more jobs, then. Why do you hate America?!*

On a more serious note, I have seen plastic paper before. It was used for maps used by boaters. You can store the map in a jar of water and then try your best to rip it with no success. It really is remarkable stuff.

  • Just in case it’s not clear: this isn’t a political comment, it’s my factual answer. Once the pundits and the lobbyists blow the issue out of proportion, logic has an uphill battle.

When the notes first came out everyone had a go at trying to rip them. If there’s the tiniest nick in the note it’s easily done (much like those little individual sachets of sauce) but if there isn’t it’s nigh on impossible.

They do wear eventually, lots of $5 notes here (the smallest denominaiton and presumably the most handled) are pretty faded but that’s a good 12 years after they were first introduced.

I’ve actually brought this up a few times before, usually in the context of the “dollar coin” discussions:

I DO think the infamous BEP crumple test would present a problem, not because of a lack of durability, but in getting the things to crumple as severely as the test demands in the first place.

Our $100 and $50 are plastic, and as of yesterday plastic $20s started circulation. They’re OK, but I find it’s easy to grab 2 $50s out of my wallet when I only mean to grab 1 (yes, I like to carry a fair amount of cash in my wallet; helps to control spending). Also, although it’s harder to crease them, if you manage to do so it’s d–n difficult to get it to stay flat again!

This website questacon suggests the plastic is an Australian invention and must be bought from us…so perhaps part of the reason for not making the switch is that currently the material for the money is sourced from America, (I have no idea if that is the case or not), and they want to keep it that way

Long-running thread about the Canadian plastic notes. I believe the Canadian government licensed the process of printing on the polymer substrate and now prints polymer notes for other countries as well as for itself. However, as far as I know, the Australians are the only ones making the substrate.

Because of lobbyists.

What about environmental concerns? Shouldn’t we should be sticking with our more eco-friendly cotton-paper money, rather than using up more oil to make plastic money?

Do you think cotton is grown without the use of oil?

Well, it only has to be grown with less oil than would be used for plastics. Don’t know if it is, but it’s an important concern, no less.

I’m Australian; all the banknotes I personally use are made of plastic.

Also I use $1 and $2 coins, and don’t have a coin smaller than 5c.

Plus our glorious leader is an unmarried atheist woman.

Let’s face it: in many ways, being Australian is a good thing.

One reason: a work colleague relates an amusing anecdote about his pants going through the washer with his wallet still in the pocket - so he did what he’s done in the past - ironed the cash dry. Of course, he had just been overseas to Singapore :smack:.

of course, that needs to account for the difference in lifespan as well. If plastic notes last longer than paper ones, you have to make more paper ones to keep the supply constant.

Plastics aren’t made of the same part of the oil that we use for energy. Basically plastics are made from the leftovers. If we didn’t make plastics with the leftovers they would simply be a disposal problem. The dominant issue is probably the amount of energy needed to process the raw materials - and whether making paper or making plastic notes is more energy intensive isn’t clear. Rag paper isn’t going to be easy. Paper is never the most environmentally friendly process.

I remember taking some local currency with me to the US in 1989. It was fun showing the locals our weird plastic, and highly coloured notes. Everyone agreed, Oz money was a lot nicer. Although the notes are much more durable, when they first came out, the anti-monarchists soon discovered that it was possible to abrade Queen Liz II’s face off the $5 note.