The Two-Way

Britain Releases A New Fiver That's A Real Survivor


The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, tests the polymer 5-pound note as he buys lunch in London on Tuesday.
Stefan Wermuth, Getty Images
The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, tests the polymer 5-pound note as he buys lunch in London on Tuesday.

This week, the U.K. introduced a 5-pound note that's designed to be waterproof, tear-resistant and chewable.

The new polymer bills, which were first released on Tuesday and will gradually be entering circulation over the next few weeks, feature Winston Churchill on the back, with a quotation: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

They feature new anti-counterfeiting features and are partly transparent. They're made of a thin, flexible plastic — the kind that's already in circulation in Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia, Reuters notes.

Did we mention that they're chewable?

The Bank of England says the resilient new notes will last 2 1/2 times longer than paper versions. When they're too old to be used, they can be recycled.

And the bank offered a breakdown of the fates of the 5-pound notes that perished in 2015:

  • 10,761 torn
  • 5,364 chewed or eaten
  • 1,801 washed
  • 2,912 contaminated
  • 997 burned or damaged

The new bills can be sent through the wash without harm — or, as Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney demonstrated, dipped in a vat of food at a street vendor's stall.

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(Of course, just because a thing can be done doesn't mean it should. Food safety is important.)

And, yes, while a determined devourer could no doubt consume the new note, it will be far safer from accidental gnawing.

BBC radio presenter John Humphrys tried to destroy the new note with what he described as "a good old chewing." It survived just fine.

But Victoria Cleland, the chief cashier of the Bank of England, gave Humphrys one word of warning.

"They're not completely indestructible," she said, "so we're not encouraging people to set fire to them."

The U.K. will be adding more polymer notes: a 10-pound note featuring Jane Austen next year, and a 20-pound note with artist J.M.W. Turner landing, appropriately, in 2020.

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