The Bank of England (BOE) is exploring a move away from printing on cotton paper and instead print banknotes on polymer.
The days of tatty fivers would become a thing of the past as the Bank claims the new notes would be at least twice as durable than those in use today as well as being resistant to dirt and moisture.
Sixty people participated in focus groups in 2012 and the prototype notes were generally well received, the central bank said. The BOE now plans to run a much larger consultation before it makes a final decision in December. Events will be held across the country to let people feel the new notes, and Britons will be able to leave comments online.
The Bank has also stated that, if introduced, polymer notes would be smaller making them easier to fit into wallets and purses.
Polymer bank notes are in use in more than 20 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore and Fiji, the bank said. They aren't completely unknown in the U.K. either. In Northern Ireland, where local banks can issue their own currency, Northern Bank, now owned by and rebranded as Danske Bank A/S, has issued polymer £5 notes for many years.
"Polymer bank notes have significant advantages over traditional cotton-paper bills", Victoria Cleland, head of the BOE's notes division, said.
"They are much harder to counterfeit than paper bills, last a lot longer and therefore are cheaper to produce over time, she said.
As well as their increased durability, the new banknotes would also be more secure, incorporating advanced security features making them difficult to counterfeit.
Commenting, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Charles Bean, said:
“Polymer banknotes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. They are also cheaper and more environmentally friendly."
"However, the Bank of England would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes. The results of the consultation programme on which we are embarking will therefore form a vital part of our assessment of the merits of polymer banknotes," Mr Bean continued.
Should the Bank go ahead with printing on polymer, they will initially only be for the new-style £5 and £10 banknotes. The Sir Winston Churchill £5 would be the first denomination to be introduced in 2016 at the earliest.