The Bank of England said today it will continue to use its new polymer notes that contain traces of tallow made from animal fat despite objections from vegetarian and religious groups, including Hindus, in the country.
The central bank had launched a public consultation on the material following protests, including by Hindu groups some of whom had banned the new notes from UK temples.
However, its report into the consultation has concluded that alternatives to the polymer notes, such as palm oil, were not viable and also more expensive.
"The use of palm oil raises questions about environmental sustainability and the Bank's suppliers have been unable to commit to sourcing the highest level of sustainable palm oil at this time. Value for money was also a consideration in the Bank's decision," the bank said in a statement.
The additional cost of switching to a new type of production would rise to about 16.5 million pounds over the next 10 years, according to the Bank of England.
The decision means that future production of the polymer 5 pound notes and 10 pound notes this year, as well as the 20 pounds to be launched in 2020 will remain unchanged.
"The bank fully recognises the concerns raised by members of the public, both prior to and during the consultation. The bank has had to balance these responses against its other public duties and priorities as well as the other evidence gathered over the past months," the bank said.
Around 3,554 people had responded to its consultation, of which 88 per cent were against the use of animal-derived additives and 48 per cent were against the use of palm oil- derived additives.
Polymer banknotes are used in more than 30 countries. It emerged during the bank's research that plastic containing animal fat is also used in debit and credit cards, mobile phones, cosmetics, soaps, household detergent bottles and car parts.
"During our research and discussion with manufacturers and consultants, we were informed that animal-derived additives are used extensively in the many different types of plastics found in a wide range of household goods used on a regular basis, eg in cosmetics, plastic carrier bags, household detergent bottles, and car parts," the report noted.
The polymer notes were chosen because they last substantially longer than paper versions, meaning fewer have to be made and the environmental cost is lower overall.
"The Carbon Trust has certified that over their full life cycle, the carbon footprint of a 5 pound polymer banknote is 16 per cent lower than the 5 pound paper banknote," the bank said.
In November 2016, the Bank of England had admitted that small traces of animal-derived products were used by a supplier in the manufacture of the new polymer 5 pound notes launched last year.
Tallow is a hard, fatty substance made from rendered animal fat. The new polymer note uses beef tallow made from suet, which is hard fat found around the animal's kidneys, stomach and other organs.
Hindu Council UK, an umbrella body, had highlighted that many Hindus were concerned due to the animal-derived products in the new notes, because one of the key virtues in the Hindu faith is Ahimsa or the practice of non-violence.
It had received many calls from various temples across the UK who had banned the use of the new 5 pound note as donations and offering to deities within the sanctuary of the temple environment.
"As a consequence of not allowing the 5 pound notes in the temple environment, many of the temples had seen a huge decrease in their temple economy, which relies totally on donations in order to operate," it had said.
The council, which had welcomed the Bank of England's public consultation on the matter, is yet to respond on the latest development on polymer notes.
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