Two images juxtaposed in my mind – The neat bundle of plastic duplicate banknotes I saw stacked in the famous game MONOPOLY
the image of my recent trip to a far suburb of my city, where upon landing into the station I was met with ankle deep plastic waste, strewn everywhere and the calm and composed faces of my fellow travelers who were merrily walking over the filth and adding to the pile.
The banknote was first developed in China during the Tang and Song dynasties, starting in the 7th century. Its roots were in merchant receipts of deposit during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), as merchants and wholesalers desired to avoid the heavy bulk of copper coinage in large commercial transactions. During the Yuan Dynasty, banknotes were adopted by the Mongol Empire. In Europe, the concept of banknotes was first introduced during the 14th century, with proper banknotes appearing in the 17th century.
Polymer banknotes were developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and The University of Melbourne and were first issued as currency in Australia in 1988. These banknotes are made from the polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) which greatly enhances durability of the banknotes. Polymer banknotes also incorporate many security features not available to paper banknotes, making counterfeiting much more difficult.
Therefore when the 194 member nations of the UN meet at Rio+20, its also time to focus on basics. Environmental degradation can be arrested only when we start to look closely at ourselves,within our pockets one can say. It is time the world shifts from traditional paper and metal currency. There is clear and present danger of Environmental degradation due to man made activities which include mining and logging. Paper and metal currency around the world are a large consumer of this activity.
However would it not be a masterstroke of good governance should the Governments decide to recycle all the plastic by calling upon SME’s to collect and convert waste plastic into billets which having passed the quality standards required extruded to make plastic concrete or plastic walls to solve the low cost housing problem, especially in India and other emerging Nations. And who knows once people come to know that these walls solves the problem of repair and maintenance to a great extent, even adapt it for high rise. With 40% of world GHG emission coming from building related activity and 60% of pollution are generated from building waste this should be a focus area.
While it is true that plastic recycling is energy intensive, here too a series of good governance could reduce the problem of economic feasibility. Geo-thermal energy should be given incentives. A solution which has no fall out and at half the cost of Nuclear must be treated with respect. So by making available perpetual and abundant energy recycling plastic to make Banknotes would be worth the thought. And if recycled plastic can not meet required quality or demand, its high time petroleum is better used by making of plastic rather than burning it as a fossil fuel thus limiting CO2e emissions.