KUALA LUMPUR - Bank Negara Malaysia's (BNM) move to reuse fit notes longer is undoubtedly aided by the arrival of polymer RM1 (S$0.37) and RM5 notes, introduced in 2012 and 2004 respectively.
These notes look presentable for a far longer time compared to paper notes as polymer does not absorb or hold on to dirt and moisture as well as paper.
The decision to go polymer for the RM5 note was proven right when the notes were found to last at least three times longer than their paper equivalent.
"Polymer RM5 notes issued in 2008 are still in circulation, attesting to their durability," said Azman Mat Ali, director of BNM's currency management and operations department.
"So far, there is every indication that the RM1 notes, which went polymer in 2012, would also go the distance," said Azman, adding that polymer notes last four to five times longer than paper notes, based on other countries' experience.
The life of a piece of paper RM1 note could be as short as six months, while most polymer RM1 are still around after two years.
BNM declined to disclose the cost of printing polymer notes, citing commercial sensitivities.
"From our experience, the rule of thumb is that polymer notes cost twice that of paper notes," said Azman, who added that each order for new polymer notes from the central bank would be tendered out to reputable printers.
In the normal cycle, banks would deposit cash with BNM on almost a daily basis. These notes will then be put through an automated process that removes those that are soiled, tattered, damaged or defaced.
"We process, authenticate and sort millions of bank notes on a daily basis," said Azman, who revealed there were about 3.8 billion pieces of banknotes in circulation here at the moment, with roughly two billion of them RM1.