Apparently there are some people out there who still pay for things with cash. Who knew.
To cater to these curious individuals and their fetid, lint-lined, banknote-shredding denim pockets, the Bank of England is thinking of replacing the skanky paper money of today with swish new polymer, complete with holograms and see-through bits.
This will end 320 years of paper money in the UK.
The new money is supposed to be more durable, more cost-effective, more environmentally friendly, washing machine resistant and much harder to counterfeit. Eighty-seven percent of the 13,000 people surveyed about the prospect of plastic money were in favour.
We weren’t not too sure the notes will deliver on the grand claims made for them, so we laid our hands on some Canadian dollars, which are made of the same polymer proposed for British currency, and subjected them to a few tests.
The new banknotes are said to be “washing machine resistant”, but how well to they survive in the microwave? Being plastic and all.
The answer is: not very well. Within seconds the transparent plastic section was curling in on itself. Sort of beautiful, actually. Better than the paper stuff, which just flakes and floats around.
We stopped at 30 seconds because the metal strip was getting exposed and, well. It wasn’t our microwave.
Finishing the thing off round the back of the office, we noticed it was really rather elegant in its death throes. Again, unlike the paper stuff.
It’s not “condoned” to write on the new notes, but informally their advocates are always banging on about how brilliantly “wipe clean” they are. So we tried a few different pens and a few different weights and we found that, for the most part, the notes held up.
Sharpie markers and cheap biros didn’t rub off, but pencil, glitter pigment and gel ink pens came off with little more than a light rubbing of the index finger.
The drug test
Sure, the Bank of England didn’t ask about this in their survey. But, since at least 2010, every British banknote has been contaminated with cocaine within weeks of entering circulation, which makes the question of how good these new notes are for insufflation pertinent to the British public.
Anyway we bought 1.5kg of plain flour for £1.10 from the local Tesco Metro and tried to snort it.
It was a disaster. The new notes don’t stay rolled up, they get sticky in seconds (which is a major problem, we’re told). The dreaded edge residue is less of a problem to begin with but the slightest bit of damp or mucus and you may as well have Vaselined your desk top for all the gak you’d get up your hooter.
In our case we only wasted a few pence worth of flour, but those intending more nefarious practices will want to switch to cheques or metal tubing from 2016.
Additional reporting by Chris Tilbury