Recently, I listened to CBC’s Rick Mercer ranting about the “stupidity” of the new Canadian banknotes. Because of my own experiences with the use of this slippery plastic money, I have to agree with him.
The new banknotes are made of a material called polymer, actually “biaxially oriented polypropylene” (BOPP)—whatever that is. Suffice to say, it’s a type of thin, thin plastic when produced as bank notes. According to the Bank of Canada, banknotes made of this non-fibrous, non-porous polymer will have a longer life than the previous paper banknotes we’ve been using. They are harder to tear, not easy to fold, more resistant to getting dirty, and waterproof. They won’t deteriorate if accidentally run through a washing machine.
Apparently, these banknotes incorporate many security features not available in paper money. These new banknotes are heralded as extremely difficult to counterfeit, and supposedly store owners will be able to check on their validity quite easily.
Canada began to switch to the polymer banknotes only recently. Australia has been using this type of currency since 1988, and about a dozen other countries have followed suit. Canadian bills currently available in the “plastic” format are $100 (Nov. 2011), $50 (March 2012), and $20 (Nov. 2012). Coming in 2013 will be the polymer $10 and $5 banknotes.
The images and the colours will remain the same, which most Canadians will be happy about—particularly the colours. I know a number of my American friends joke about our currency as “funny money” or “play money”, but I find the colours to be an easy way to distinguish one denomination from another. What now will be viewed as funny will be our thin plastic banknotes with their clear plastic windows a third of the way along the bills.
The main problem I have with the new money is that it does not fold. Apparently, that is exactly what the Bank of Canada wanted as the banknotes take 2.5 times longer to wear out, thus saving on production costs.
A few days ago, someone gave me several of the new $50 bills. I folded them as best as I could and shoved them into my front pocket, where I usually carry banknotes. Later, I needed a kleenex tissue, pulled it out of my pocket, and all the banknotes slipped from my pocket. I had to rush to pick them up before the wind blew them away.
The second problem I have with the “plastic” money is that the banknotes tend to stick together. Recently, my wife gave me $200 worth of the new $50 bills. She counted the money as she gave it to me, and then I drove to the bank to deposit it. I counted the money again before I placed the bills in an envelope and slid it into the ATM slot.
When I returned home, my wife asked me if she’d given me an extra $50 bill. I said “no” because I’d done a second count before depositing them. Two days later the bank notified me that instead of $200, I’d actually deposited $250. The only way to explain the error was that the bills stuck together.
The proof of this came when I bought some things at a local store. I gave the clerk a $20 bill to pay for the purchase. As she went to put it into the till, the $20 separated into two $20 banknotes. She apologized, but it wasn’t her fault. It was simply the nature of the new plastic bills.
But look out! Soon the $10 purple and the $5 blue polymer banknotes will be fluttering our way—and we’ll have to be even more careful.