As countries sign on to the Paris Agreement on climate change and strive to become more sustainable, many are considering the environmental impact of their currency as well as its durability and security.
Money has been made from a variety of materials over the years—from leather in China during the Han Dynasty, to shells, precious metals, cotton paper, and most recently, plastic. The materials reflect the social and political climate of the time as well as available technologies and resources.
For centuries, people in China used precious metal coins strung together through a center hole to conduct transactions. But with larger commercial transactions in the 7th century, there was a move to the easier-to-transport paper currency. In the 13th century Marco Polo reported back to Europe from his travels on the use of paper rather than coins, and Europe’s earliest modern paper banknotes were issued by the Bank of Stockholm in 1661.
Paper quickly became the currency of choice around the world and remained so for centuries. But with recent technological developments, plastic film notes offer additional security features along with longevity and energy efficiency.