|An increasing number of countries are switching to using polymer bank notes. Australia was the first country to develop and use polymer notes in general circulation, mainly to decrease the rising rate of counterfeit money. Since then, they have only gained in popularity and recognition for their many benefits over the traditional paper bank notes. Polymer banknotes were developed to improve currency durability and prevent counterfeiting through incorporated security features- such as optically variable devices that are extremely difficult to reproduce, durability and ability to resist wear and tear, cost-effectiveness in the long-term, increased environmental friendliness. One of the strongest security features of the polymer note is the see through window, which makes it hard to reproduce by using photocopiers or scanners. The raised ink, transparent text, metallic portraits or images and hidden numbers are some of the other security features of polymer currency which makes it very difficult not to mention costly to counterfeit. Further means of security features can also be added easily and inconspicuously. The material properties of polymer substrate as well as the protective coating finish means that the notes don't soil easily and absorb sweat, oil, water or other liquids like paper bills do, are less prone to staining or damage, less prone to tearing. Polymer notes last up to four times longer than paper notes, hence they save money in printing costs over a longer time period, thereby saving costs in the long-term. Polymer material has more benefit to the environment than paper notes. For one, polymer is less polluting, and the production process of the material is more energy-efficient. The other great environmental benefit of polymer over paper is how the polymer notes are recyclable when they are no longer needed for use. They are easier to machine process and are shreddable and recyclable at the end of their useful lives.
In 1988, after significant research and development by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Reserve Bank of Australia, Australia produced the first polymer banknote made from biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP), and in 1996 became the first country to have a full set of circulating polymer banknotes of all denominations. In 2005, Bulgaria issued the world's first hybrid paper-polymer banknote. As of 2010, seven countries have converted fully to polymer banknotes: Australia, Bermuda, Brunei, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Romania and Vietnam. Other countries with notes printed on Guardian polymer in circulation include Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong (for a two year trial), Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Singapore, Solomon Island (no longer issued), Sri Lanka, Thailand, Samoa and Zambia. Countries and regions that have issued commemorative banknotes (which are not in circulation) on Guardian polymer include China, Taiwan, Kuwait, Northern Ireland and Singapore. In 1983, Costa Rica and Haiti issued the first Tyvek and the Isle of Man issued the first Bradvek polymer (or plastic) banknotes; these were printed by the American Banknote Company and developed by DuPont. Countries indicating plans to issue polymer banknotes include Nigeria and Canada.
Polymer banknotes are advantageous for a number of reasons, but they have their faults as well. When polymer notes come in contact with water or some other liquid, they tend to get stuck together, making them difficult to pull apart. Polymer notes are designed specifically to resist attempts at folding. The use of polymer is intended to increase the life of a bill, but without being able to fold it at all, those who use folding wallets or prefer to carry bills in their pocket will have a difficult time making do. When a polymer banknote is folded, the action creates a crease in the middle of the bill that is permanent.
As per Wikipedia, polymer banknotes were developed to increase the security of Australia's paper currency against counterfeiting. In 1967 forgeries of the Australian $10 note were found in circulation and the RBA was concerned about an increase in counterfeiting with the release of colour photocopiers that year. In 1968 the RBA started collaborations with the CSIRO and funds were made available in 1969 for the experimental production of distinctive papers. The insertion of an optically variable device (OVD) created from diffraction gratings in plastic as a security device inserted in banknotes was proposed in 1972. The first patent arising from the development of polymer banknotes was filed in 1973. In 1974 the technique of lamination was used to combine materials; the all-plastic laminate eventually chosen was a clear, BOPP laminate, in which OVDs could be inserted without needing to punch holes. The BOPP substrate is processed through the following steps:
• Opacifying - two layers of ink (usually white) are applied to each side of the note, except for an area(s) deliberately left clear for creating an OVD;
• Sheeting - the substrate is cut into sheets suitable for the printing press;
• Printing - traditional offset, intaglio and letterpress printing processes are used;
• Overcoating - notes are coated with a protective varnish.
Countries in the European Union that use the euro are Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland However, the European Central Bank stuck to paper when issuing euro notes for the first time in 2002. The US government estimates that less than 1/100 of 1% of U.S. paper currency in circulation is counterfeit. Considering recent advances in printing technology and the obviously vast incentive to counterfeit bills, that's a pretty small number. In part, this is because the U.S. Secret Service thoroughly investigates all reported counterfeiting cases, and because there are harsh criminal penalties for counterfeiting or passing fake bills. Perhaps more than anything, though, counterfeiting is difficult because of the bills' security features, which are hard to reproduce but easy to use to verify note authenticity. America has no plans to change to polymer notes. Its officials claim that the blend of paper they use gives one-dollar bills a 21-month life, compared with 15 months for low-value polymer bills. Changing infrastructure to manufacture and to process plastic money would be pricey. Overall, counterfeiting of US currency remains extremely low. This is due primarily to the combination of improvements in the notes' security features as mentioned above, aggressive law enforcement, and educational efforts to inform the public about how to verify their currency. According to statistics, the amount of counterfeit US currency worldwide is less than 1% of genuine US currency in circulation.