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The Bank of England has launched a consultation on the materials that should be used in future banknotes, after the discovery of trace amounts of animal fat in its new polymer £5 notes led to a campaign to make them vegan-friendly.
The Bank said last month that it will not withdraw the £5 notes from circulation, but said it would consult with the public on how future banknotes should be made.
It added that it is treating concerns about the banknotes “with the utmost seriousness”, and commissioned an independent report on the environmental impact of alternative additives.
However, it said that “the only practical alternative to animal-derived additives is additives derived from palm oil“, an ingredient which has been controversial for its contribution to the destruction of tropical forests and peatland across Southeast Asia.
The Bank has suspended the tender for developing the substrate for its new £20 notes, but said it “needs to take a decision soon” in order to launch the new note by 2020.
Members of the public are invited to comment on the Bank’s consultation, before a final decision on the composition of future notes is made this summer.
Emma Keller, agriculture commodities manager at the World Wide Fund for Nature, which has been involved in discussions about the potential environmental impact of the different options, said:
WWF is encouraged to see the thorough and extensive review that the Bank of England have conducted in response to the animal fat issue in new bank notes. Palm oil has benefits as it produces more oil per land area than any other equivalent oil crop. Worldwide demand is expected to double again by 2050 but this expansion comes at the expense of human rights and tropical forest – which forms critical habitat for a large number of endangered wildlife – unless it is sustainable. People don’t want the bank notes in their pocket to come with such a high environmental cost. The bank must only source RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified sustainable palm oil or none at all