Supplier inability to provide top level palm-oil sustainability certification was part of the decision by the Bank of England (BoE) not to change the makeup of its polymer notes. This is despite complaints that they contain trace amounts of animal fat.
The new £10 and £20 notes, as well as future reprints of the £5 note, will continue to use tallow instead of a palm oil-derived alternative. BoE said its suppliers were “unable to commit to sourcing the highest level of sustainable palm oil at this time”.
The decision was made despite a public consultation showing overwhelming opposition to the use of animal derived fats.
Of those who expressed an opinion in BoE’s consultation, 88% were opposed to the use of animal products while less than half (48%) were opposed to the use of palm oil.
BoE said a range of factors affected the decision, including cost. It said supplier estimates suggested that moving all notes to a palm oil-based alternative would cost around £16.5m over the next 10 years. This could lead to a 5% rise in the annual cost of printing notes that would be carried by the taxpayer, it said.
Moving to the palm oil alternative would also mean restarting the tender process for polymer contracts, adding uncertainty.
Revelations last year that the new polymer £5 note contained tallow prompted a public backlash and a petition arguing that use of animal products was unacceptable to vegans, vegetarians, Hindus and Sikhs among others.
In response BoE worked with the main banknote polymer suppliers to assess alternative and concluded a palm oil-based chemical would be the only workable alternative.
The two firms, De La Rue and CCL Secure, after looking at their own supply chains to evaluate the use of sustainable palm oil, both concluded separately they would only be able to provide a mid-level tier sustainability certification, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Mass Balance certificate.
Neither could commit to the most stringent certification, RSPO full segregation, in a reasonable timeframe. Full segregation certifies full traceability and assures that all of the palm oil is from a certified sustainable source.
Fatty acid from the tallow is commonly used in plastics to give them certain characteristics, and compromise less than 0.05% of the note.
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