Ottawa

Canada to switch to plastic bills next year

The federal government announced earlier this week that Canada's paper-cotton banknotes would be replaced by newly designed plastic ones next year.

They say money doesn't grow on trees. Well, the federal government has taken that adage to heart — it announced earlier this week that Canada's paper-cotton banknotes would be replaced by newly designed plastic ones next year.

It's part of a plan to modernize and protect Canadian currency against counterfeiting.

The new plastic bills, made from a polymer material, are harder to fake, recyclable, and two to three times more resistant to tearing, the Bank of Canada said.

Australia has used polymer banknotes since the 1990s, and an Australian company will provide the material for Canada. Several other countries have adopted polymer banknotes including New Zealand, Vietnam and Romania.

The new notes won't be in circulation until sometime in 2011. In the meantime, the central bank is keeping mum on what the new bills will look like.

"I can't divulge that information because they will be issued in about 18 months  — that's a long ways away," said Bank of Canada spokesperson Julie Girard. "We want to keep a little bit of information from potential counterfeiters so they don't get a leg up and start producing any counterfeits."

CBC News wanted to get some local Canadians' impressions of the polymer bills. Reporter Sandra Abma took an Australian banknote and a classic cotton-paper Canadian bill and asked people on the streets of Ottawa to compare. The opinions were mixed.

"It would be easier to lose, I think," said one woman, after rubbing her fingers on the polymer bill. "It's soft and smooth and it could slide out easier."

"This feels like Monopoly money actually," said a young man. "It's like I took this out of a board game and then went to buy Timmy's with it."