Close-up of a 20-euro banknote
#Banknote Solutions

Cash goes green with more sustainable banknotes

4 Mins.

Every new IPCC report is a grave warning about the impact of environmental apathy. Sustainability has taken on great importance over recent years, but change is still drastically needed. We look at how banknotes can be made more sustainable across the world, and how that could have a positive impact on society.

Cash is one of the most important forms of payment available, and there are billions of banknotes in circulation at any one time. Nonetheless, every year, around 25% of these become worn out and have to be replaced. Making banknotes that last longer and ensuring the process is greener every step of the way, from production to post-circulation, is important for the environment and long-term sustainability. A new cotton banknote is paving the way to make cash a greener solution.

The new Green Banknote from Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) addresses the need for sustainability, and is durable, flexible, and highly secure. It is made from renewable materials such as organic cotton and eco-friendly inks, uses less plastic, and generates fewer CO2 emissions than polymer banknotes.

Making cash more environmentally friendly

Felix Ehrtmann, G+D’s Product Manager Integration and Print
Felix Ehrtmann, G+D’s Product Manager Integration and Print

In contrast to polymer banknotes, the core of the Green Banknote is made from natural, renewable fibers: 50% of the fibers come from certified organic cotton, and 50% come from European-grown fibers such as certified wood pulp that originates from responsible forestry. This reduces the carbon emissions so that there is less environmental impact than with conventional cotton fibers. It’s a sustainable process from beginning to end: cotton production removes more CO2 from the air than it emits.

The paper core of the note is protected by a thin lamination film, which also protects the security foils and threads, giving the Green Banknote the same lifespan as polymer banknotes whatever the currency, but with a production process that is more eco-friendly.

“We are taking the banknote to a higher level by working with new types of locally grown fibers, certified organic cotton, and recycled materials, by optimizing the use of innovative products, or by using environmentally friendly printing inks,” says Felix Ehrtmann, G+D’s Product Manager Integration and Print. This is the first time that mineral-oil-free printing inks are being used, increasing the note’s bio-based content and using less fossil raw material than conventional inks.

“With the Green Banknote, we are making a contribution to greater environmental protection and sustainability. This meets the demand for less plastic and supports our customers and partners on their way to green banking“
Felix Ehrtmann
Product Manager Integration and Print at G+D

Security by design

Recycling is also key. The banknote has state-of-the-art substrate-embedded security features such as the RollingStar® i+ security thread, but uses recycled plastic from material like plastic bottles to make the security threads/patches for the banknotes. “For the first time ever in banknotes, the carrier foil for the security thread and the security patch are made of 70% recycled polyester from post-consumer recycled materials such as PET bottles,” says Ehrtmann.

The foil is also thinner – the thickness of the protective layer in Hybrid substrate has been reduced from 6μm to 4μm – about one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. All of this means that the banknotes use 86% less plastic compared with banknotes made from polymer.

 “The Green Banknote is a highly complex, demanding product in terms of production and materials – from the paper core to the application of the patch to the lamination process and various printing steps. But despite the complexity, the results are impressive, generating 29% less CO2 than finished polymer banknotes,” notes Ehrtmann.

A look to the future

Cash payments are vital to the world of finance and these banknotes offer a greener solution for any bank or central bank producing banknotes.

“With the Green Banknote, we are making a decisive contribution to greater environmental protection and sustainability. This not only meets the demand for less plastic, but supports our customers and partners on their way to green banking,” concludes Ehrtmann.


Published: 23/08/2022

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