What happens to old bank notes when they are replaced with a new design and the old notes are taken out of circulation?

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

Date: 10 September 2020


Old Bank of England banknotes that are taken out of circulation are destroyed. Since 2011, we have recycled most of our old paper banknotes. They are either used to create a soil improver or processed at a local energy recovery facility to generate electricity. 

As composting is not suitable for polymer notes, we commissioned an independent third-party to conduct a lifecycle study assessing the environmental impacts of different waste treatment options.  Recycling was the most favourable option. As a result, we have secured a UK-based recycling solution, which turns polymer banknotes into pellets before being transformed into new plastic items such as plant pots.  A copy of the lifecycle study is available.

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