IN the days when public organisations were not as environmentally aware, the disposal of old, damaged or obsolete bank notes in the UK saw them being burned in a furnace to help heat the Bank of England building.
Now times have changed and the introduction of the new British £20 note which is made from polymer and joins the £5 and £10 notes means that there are an estimated £40 (€48) billion worth of the old paper notes which have to be collected, collated and recycled as a soil improver.
Whilst the old notes continue to circulate, there are none going back into the system from the high street banks and work is being undertaken to convert cash machines to enable them to dispense the smaller new note.
The £20 note is the most used in the UK with some two billion in circulation and as the old notes are returned for destruction, they will be place in bundles of 2,500 so that they can be accounted for and then composted.
The notes will continue to be legal tender until the Bank of England is satisfied that there are sufficient of the new notes available to start a six month countdown before they can no longer be used.
Not only will be there a six month grace period before they cease to be legal tender, some banks and post offices will be likely to accept them back for credit or exchange.
Many elderly people do keep banknotes on hand, so it is important that they are aware of the changes.