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

Disclosure:

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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