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Innventia provides critical review support as Bank of England turns to polymer banknotes

Following three years of research work into all aspects of the pros and cons the Bank of England has announced that it will begin introducing polymer banknotes into circulation in 2016.

As part of the Bank’s research, an independent life cycle assessment (LCA) study was conducted to assess the environmental impact of the current paper cotton banknotes and the proposed polymer banknotes. In line with the ISO14040/44 requirements for comparative LCA studies the project was subject to a critical review by a panel of industry experts. Innventia’s Michael Sturges was selected to be a member of this panel, working alongside experts covering banknote production and life cycle assessment methodology.

Michael explains, “It is very important for such a high profile study that the work is well balanced and the conclusions drawn reflect the results and limitations. The critical review panel worked well together to ensure that the data and assumptions applied in the study were transparent and robust.”

The study considered the impact of each stage of the life cycle of banknotes across seven environmental indicators, including global warming potential, water and energy use, ozone creation and environmental toxicity. Polymer notes showed benefits over cotton paper for all the main phases of the life cycle and for the majority of the indicators it was concluded that polymer banknotes have a lower environmental impact compared to cotton paper notes. The main factor contributing to this improved performance is the fact that polymer banknotes last at least 2.5 times longer than cotton paper notes. 

Innventia’s main role was to bring an expert view on the life cycles of the different materials and the processes involved for both paper and polymer notes. This was complimented by input from other LCA experts and from bank note industry professionals. “Although the review panel never met in person we were able to build a good rapport internally and with the lead LCA practitioner through well-structured web meetings”, explains Michael. A clearly defined scope for the critical review process also helped ensure that the support was delivered effectively and efficiently. 
Michael concludes, “Participating in this critical review process was a great experience. The report received by the Bank benefitted from having the input of complimentary independent experts”. 

Innventia’s sustainability experts are able to provide LCA and critical review services. Read more about it in the links to the right.


Michael Sturges
+44 (0)7787 531141
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