The number and face value of notes to be removed and introduced into circulation as the Bank of England replaces paper banknotes, recycling of paper banknotes and cost of printing the launch stock of polymer banknotes

We publish details of a selection of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and the information we disclose in response.

Date released: 27 September 2016


Data regarding the circulation of the Bank of England’s (the ‘Bank’s’) banknotes will be published on the Bank’s website and its annual report as new banknotes are issued. These data include the number of banknotes that are printed and the number that are destroyed each year.

Initially, Bank of England paper banknotes will continue to circulate alongside the new polymer banknotes. The £5 paper banknotes will remain legal tender until May 2017. The Bank will gradually start withdrawing paper banknotes as they are banked by retailers and businesses.  All withdrawn banknotes remain payable at face value for all time, and can be exchanged for new banknotes at the Bank in London.  Not all paper banknotes will be returned to the Bank as some will be retained by banknote collectors or saved privately.

Since 2011 the Bank has recycled paper banknotes for compost. Each year the Bank recycles around 700 million paper banknotes, which are then used as a soil improver for agriculture.

Banknote Lifecycle

The actual cost of printing the launch stock of 440 million £5 polymer banknotes was £34.9 mn, and the current estimated cost of printing 1,064 million polymer £10 banknotes is £84.6 mn. We are unable to provide an estimated cost for the printing of the launch stock of polymer £20 banknotes as its specification is not yet final and we are currently undertaking competitive tenders for key components of the banknote.

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