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The deal with plastic money

March 21, 2010

I just read this off where Taina, a 31 year old gal living in Vancouver, B.C. is living a year without plastics. It never occured to me that plastic money could be detrimental to our planet until after I read her post on it. Here it is:

Canada switching to plastic money

Well woope-di-woo. Another brilliant move. It’s all over the news… Let’s get rid of yet another thing that was working just fine, and change it to plastic. Thanks Amanda and Lori-Anne for bringing this to our attention.

What’s the benefit of plastic money you ask? Well, here are some excerpts from a few articles:

“Canadians will no longer have to worry that their tens and twenties might dissolve if they mistakenly go through the wash” (The Globe and Mail)

“Plastic currency is cleaner and hard to forge” (Toronto Star)

“It’s part of a plan to modernize the Canadian currency” (CBC)

“The new bills are expected to last three times as long as the all-cotton bills and won’t absorb oils and sweat from our hands.” (Mother Nature Network)

Now if you have been reading my blog for any time, you can probably guess what I would say to all of the above. Check your frikking pockets before you wash your shit, since when is plastic “cleaner” by many definitions, since when does modernization equal plastic (to me that is development going the wrong way!), try changing the description from lasting ‘longer’ to ’sticking around forever’, and since when was sweat and oil more of a problem over toxic polymers. *Breath.

Another good one.. “This will allow us to switch from resource intensive production of cotton, to plastic.” Under what analysis is plastic better in its manufacturing process and ingredients? How about hemp!? That would make my day actually. Maybe even my year.

And my ultimate favourite argument! Apparently the new bills are recyclable!! How about we stick to stuff that is biodegradable as the more responsible way to go?? One guy claims that the great thing is that the bills “can be recycled and used to manufacture other plastic products such as compost bins and plumbing fixtures.” That one made me laugh. As if we need more plastic to make more plastic things in this world. And are we really increasing composting by putting these plastics bills into existence? I mean really?

What more can I say about this one? I guess the deal is done and it will be rather difficult not to acquire plastic in 2011. And speaking of the deal, The Bank of Canada is not disclosing the beneficiary of this deal (ie the manufacturer). Wouldn’t you love to get your hands on some of that correspondence?

Media is looking for opinions on the matter. Just click on any of those links. If you disagree, make your voice heard and cc us too. Actually, if you are for the idea and have a reasonable environmental argument, please comment. I am open to be enlightened.

You can also write a letter voicing your disapproval. Here is a link to a letter writing campaign from the good folks at Pebble in the Pond. Thank you Karen for putting that up! I’ll be writing.

If I can find more positive (or helpful) stuff to write about this one here, I will. Including for the benefit of my boyfriend who is sitting next to me leisurely picking the banjo and wondering why I get so worked up about it. Sorry folks, another rant is all I got for now.#

If you don’t already know, or haven’t noticed… Singapore uses plastic money too! Plastic money started becoming popular in 2002 but was introduced in Singapore as early as 1990. More on this here.

Here’s what was reported about plastic money in 2002:

Plastic money — which is actually made from a polymer substrate — lasts longer, stays cleaner and is harder to counterfeit, because of its clear window and hologram effect.

The notes have a lifespan four or five times that of paper money — and at the end, they can be recycled into granules that in turn are transformed into plastic garden products such as wheelbarrows and compost bins.

Plastic Money

Sure. Oh and interestingly, the technology to make plastic money was developed jointly by Australia’s central bank and the national scientific research body, CSIRO. Hmm, the CSIRO… which stands for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, currently champions many initiatives targetting climate change so it is quite odd that they had a hand in developing such technology…. unless it was to save paper? I don’t know, what do you think? Perhaps plastic money does contribute to saving the Earth more than if paper money was in circulation, given the longer life span of plastic money. In order to clear doubts on this matter, there is a feature article on the CSIRO website on Making Money from Plastic. What it argues is that:

For hundreds of years, banknotes have been made from rag-based paper. However, the increase in counterfeiting techniques, such as colour photocopiers and scanners, has meant that paper may not be the best material for making currency.

CSIRO and Note Printing Australia, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia, began work in the 1980s to improve the security and durability of Australia’s currency.

The result is a sophisticated, more durable polymer note as an alternative to conventional banknotes – the world’s first ‘plastic’ banknote.

Polymer notes have replaced paper notes in Australia, and Australia leads the world in polymer banknote technology.#

In addition, they argue from a security point of view, saying that it is easier to deploy security techniques on plastic money than it is on paper money. That seems like a feasible reason for Singapore to switch to plastic! So, have a thought the next time you pay for something (or if you just like counting money.. hmm) and think about the plastic/paper used in your note. Perhaps also ask why a country should or should not convert to plastic and if governments’ main priority was really to cut down paper use for currency? I think the security reason suffices for most governments and it certainly did for Singapore.

Till next time,


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Just the though of a person who won't reply again. permalink
    October 7, 2011 8:50 pm

    can’t tell you’re hating on it at all. Recycling is a good thing, not the worst sin on the planet, and money being cleaner is a very good thing. Money is one of the dirtiest things on the planet, up there with sewage. This will help avoid viruses because many people don’t wash their hands after touching cash. Also the security of it will help the economy. Many business have losses due to people using fake moneyz.

  2. permalink
    March 19, 2012 9:58 pm

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