Today I Discovered Euro Banknotes Are Made From Fabric

Image: Getty

Australians always act so superior about our shiny plastic money, but perhaps we should be looking towards the EU for a more sustainable, eco-friendly option. While euro banknotes might look like flimsy paper money, it turns out they're actually made from pure cotton fibres, giving them a bit of an advantage over traditional paper money.

The 'paper' that goes into making a euro banknote is actually made from a type of cotton fibre called comber noils. These short, silky fibres are too fine to be of any use to the textile industry, but can easily be pressed into paper. The quality of the fibres is also what gives a euro its distinctive feel.

While you can still tear a euro note fairly easily if you try, the cotton fibres give notes a little more durability than a regular paper note. Most notably they'll actually stand up to accidentally going through the washing machine - you just have to stretch it out to dry. Hell, you could probably even iron them if you wanted to.

As we look to reduce the amount of plastic waste we're producing across the world, this cotton by-product material makes a lot of sense for something that's made in such huge volumes like banknotes. Some producers of euros take this even further - the De Nederlandsche Bank of the Netherlands, for example, sources 70 per cent of its cotton from sustainable sources, while it looks to soon increase that number to 100 per cent.

Hey, maybe it's an idea for when Australia gets bored of its shiny new notes.

Today I Discovered is a daily dose of facts for Lifehacker readers - the weird, wonderful and sometimes worrying. Most of the time, it's just mind-blowing. Let us know if you discovered anything that blew your mind in the comments!


    I was over in the US a few years back, and they were fascinated with our plastic money. Was Las Vegas, a city where having a few hundred dollar notes in their pocket isn't really unusual, and without fail every person had a story to tell of those hundred dollar bills going through the wash.

    US money is cotton based as well, and while its possible to salvage them if that happened, in reality it just didn't happen. Cotton money doesn't stand up to abuse anywhere near as well as people think.

    In terms of our plastic money, comparing it to the plastic waste of other areas is ridiculous. For starters, the controls on them mean they aren't just dumped by the mint, but go through a process. Which includes recycling them for other uses like plumbing or industrial plastics.

      Pretty sure our *old* banknotes were the same (or at least similar) cotton blend back in the day. From memory there were a couple reasons we moved to plastic, one it's harder to counterfeit, two it's cheaper to manufacture and three it actually lasts longer. So all round it's probably better for the environment and the economy to be using plastic notes.

        I remember ours being more papery than the US ones, but the same issues would have been in play. Water ruined them, or damaged them to the point they weren't legal tender any more.

        Is the US, everyone wanted to get a picture of them they were that popular. Different sizes, clearly different patterns and colors, partially clear... It was fascinating to them. I just happened to have a range from $5's to $50's on me after needing cash right before I left so was easy to show em. The $50 was the clear favourite.

        And yeah, I remember the same justifications for the polymer notes. Better security, cheaper, lasted longer, and recyclable were all good reasons.

        Last time I checked, I think there were 30-something other countries using them now, in one way or another.

          All the reasons above, are also the reasons we don't have 1 and 2 dollar notes. A dollar note had a lifetime of about 1 year.

          I remember putting paper money through the washing machine with no dramas a number of times. I couldn't find a good link on how the old notes were manufactured but I'm sure they weren't just paper. There was fabric in the paper from memory, but again, that's just from memory :(

          @woofwoof: Inflation also played a part with the removal of $1 and $2 notes.

            Isn't the US a curious place though, with their $1 notes? If you ever get a $2 note, note that they are quite rare.

              Yeah I don't really understand the $1 US notes. Maybe they still have a lot of things you can buy for a dollar?

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