The Bank of England is to undertake a UK roadshow to gauge public opinion on the introduction of plastic banknotes.
The bank says it has been researching the relative merits of switching from paper to plastic for bank note production for the past three years. The project has been given fresh impetus under new governor Mark Carney, who forced a switch to polymer notes during his tenure as head of Canada's central bank.
In a statement, the Bank says: "From our research, we are confident that printing on polymer would bring considerable benefits to both the durability and quality of banknotes, while also enhancing the strong security which the public associates with Bank of England banknotes."
The Bank says not only are plastic notes more secure, but they are also cleaner and more durable, adding two-and-a-half years to the average shelf life of a paper note.
Initial consultations with banks and other key stakeholder have proved positive, says the Bank, which has kicked off a series of public roadshows across the UK to assess consumer sentiment. A final decision will be made in December.
Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Charles Bean, says: "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."
If a decision is made to move to polymer, the Bank will also introduce smaller banknotes, beginning with new-style £5 and £10 banknote. Polymer banknotes would be introduced one denomination at a time, with the Churchill £5 in 2016 at the earliest.