Over 130,000 signatures have been received for an online petition asking the Bank of England to change the material used to make its new £5 notes.

New notes

The new £5 notes were unveiled with great fanfare at the Blenheim Palace in June 2016 and were displayed to the public at various events across the UK over the following months. The new note even has its own website and was launched into public circulation in September 2016, with an expectation to gradually  the old £5 notes. The old £5 notes will cease to be legal tender and will not be accepted for transactions from May 2017 onwards.

Clean for longer

The new notes have been launched to introduce new security features and stay ahead of counterfeiters. These notes are printed on polymer - instead of paper - due to the superior features of polymer – it is more durable and stays clean for longer. The Bank of England has introduced additional security features - a see-through window and foil Elizabeth Tower - which counterfeiters will find difficult to reproduce.

Sikhs, Hindus, vegans can’t use it

The current controversy over the new note is that traces of tallow, an animal fat, were found in the new notes. When queried about it, the Bank of England confirmed on its Twitter account:

“There is a trace of tallow in the polymer pellets used in the base substrate of the polymer £5 notes.”

The presence of animal fat is unacceptable to vegans and certain religious groups - Hindus, Sikhs and Jains - and led to an online petition requesting the Bank of England to stop the use of the material. The Bank of England has subsequently issued a statement saying that it respects the concerns of these groups and is working with its supplier to find a solution.

Bitcoin won’t offend anyone

While central banks are debating which material fiat notes should be printed on, the world has moved ahead. Bitcoin is unlikely to offend anybody – vegans, vegetarians or meat-eaters. If the Bank of England is proud of its record against counterfeiters - 0.0075 percent of notes in circulation were counterfeit in 2015 - it should note that Bitcoin is impossible to counterfeit. Adopting a more advanced solution will eliminate most of the problems that physical fiat currency has.